"Having a blog is like wandering around your house naked with the windows open; it's all very liberating until someone looks in the window. However, while being caught unawares is one thing, it is quite another to stroll up to the window and press your naked, flabby body against the coolness of the glass in a hideous form of vertical prostration for all the world to see..." These posts are the smudges that are left behind on the window.

Monday, 30 March 2015

Killing God

It's coming to be Easter. A time when people's thoughts turn to daffodils, bunnies, chocolate and ...

"Why, exactly, did God kill Jesus?"

The other day I reluctantly entered a discussion on Facebook initiated by neXus church in BC. The whole thing surrounded conservative vs liberal theology; the role of other religions; universalism; and the point of Jesus' dying. I had been thinking of writing a blog on this topic anyway, so I jumped right in. Below is essentially my first post in that discussion, but fleshed out a bit for this blog.

It is only in the past couple of months that I have come to understand that Grace is EVERYTHING. Barth has said that the gospel - the "Good News" - is Grace. And by Grace I don't mean the narrow view that most evangelicals have of that word that restricts its meaning to something concerning atonement. When I say Grace I mean; love, compassion, mercy, forgiveness, and acceptance - true Grace. I have come to realise there's nothing that can separate us from the Grace of God. NOTHING. We don't have to accept it, or reject it. To place any kind of condition on the Grace of God is to diminish it.

The only thing we have to do is to accept the fact that it's free.

If you start to think about the unconditional, unrelenting, all consuming Grace of God, a lot more things start to make sense in the bible. Grace is the reason God chose a pig headed people like the Israelites. Grace is the reason God called an adulterer like David a man after his own heart. Grace is the reason God chose an inconsistent person like Peter to be the rock of the Church. Grace is the reason Jesus ended up with a disciple like Judas.

God's Grace is beyond us. It's beyond our actions or our decisions. It's beyond anything we can say or do, or anything we don't say, or don't do. It has nothing to do with us.

Barth also said that the only difference between a Christian and a non-Christian is that the Christian knows he is saved. On the surface this may seem very superficial and universal, but if you think about it, it's more profound than it initially appears. The person who knows he is saved will (should) go out and start to act like it, which is what Jesus talked about all through his ministry on earth - the Kingdom of God.  We need Christians to start acting like Christians right here and now. Not to act like they've got their ticket to heaven, and they're just waiting to get on the bus.

God's Grace is holding the door of the bus open for everyone - with, or without, a ticket.

Although there is value in other religions, we still need Christianity. Christians, the ones who know they are saved, who have an experiential knowledge of God's Grace, are supposed to be the ones showing people how to live in the radical, kingdom, Grace filled way portrayed by Jesus.

Why then, if it's just about living a good life now, did Jesus have to die you ask. Good question. I've wondered this for a lot of years and I suspect that there are several different layers of meaning to it. But part of it, I've just come to realise, is to show that the Grace of God is so sufficient, so pervasive, that you can even kill God and he will still extend his Grace to us in resurrection. And that my friends, should spur us on to extending that same Grace to everyone we encounter.

The Kingdom of God realised.

And by the way, when Jesus told the thief on the cross that today he would be with him in paradise, he didn't turn to the other thief and say; "and you won't".

Saturday, 10 January 2015

Swearing at Jesus

When I was about 12 I had a tobogganing  accident right before Christmas. It left me on crutches for the entire 2 week break with torn ligaments in both my knees. My Mom and I would usually spend Saturday afternoons together. Typically she would bake bread, and I would play. When the buns started coming out of the oven I would  try to scoop out the middle of a bun, while it was still warm, and eat the soft gooey mass with lots of butter. While this was going on we would normally listen to the radio - to a show called Unshackled. They were usually stories about how down-and-out people finally reached the bottom, and, through some miracle or other, would suddenly make a decision for Christ.

The Saturday I was on crutches was no exception.

My Mom was baking bread and I was playing on the floor with my Lego while we listened. I don't remember the story that day, but I do remember thinking that maybe I needed to make that decision for Christ myself. Perhaps it was the accident that got me thinking that my life was finite and I should do this before it was too late; I don't know. But, I do remember thinking that I didn't want to go to hell, so I said the prayer (to myself), that ended each show, and asked Christ into my heart.

There's an old evangelistic tool where, if you are trying to convert someone to Christianity, you ask them; "If you were to die tonight and God were to ask you why he should let you into heaven, what would you answer?" The proper answer is something to the affect that Christ died for your sins and that you had accepted him into your heart.

Case closed.

These days, this is how I see that whole scenario playing out.

There's a line of us waiting our turn to talk to Jesus. Eventually it's my turn, so I walk up to Jesus as he stands behind a small table with a large book on it. "That must be the Book of Life with all the peoples names in it that are allowed in" I think to myself.

"Name please"

Jesus runs his finger down the page. Leafs back and forth a few times. "Hmmm...."

"That can't be good" I think to myself

Then Jesus looks up and says; "So,.. Rudy,.. why should I let you into heaven?"
"Well, when I was 12 I asked you into my heart." I say confidently.
"Sorry, not good enough"
"What the hell?" "Why not?" I ask in dismay.
"It's not about you" Jesus replies.
"What the fuck?" "Sorry,.. I didn't mean to swear"
"It's OK" Jesus says. "It's not like I haven't heard it before. Besides, it's about what's in your heart that matters, not necessarily what comes out of your mouth."
"Hmmm ... Oh,,, I know." I say hopefully. "You died on cross for my sins."
"I died on the cross for everyone's sins. Sin isn't the issue."

I stand there looking at my feet, suddenly realizing they're bare, trying to figure out what I'm missing.

"Look, why don't you go over there and sit on a bench for awhile and try to figure it out while I process some of these other people" Jesus suggests.

I look to the left and there are a bunch of benches, with several people already sitting on them. I find an empty space and sit down. I look up and down the benches at the people sitting there. Some have obviously been there awhile. Every now and then I think I recognize someone. "Is that Pastor Bob? What's he doing on the bench?" I wonder.

Then I notice that I can see past Jesus, through the pearly gates, into Heaven - there are lots of people there. I see them sitting and talking to bright orbs of light. I see them talking to each other. I see them playing. They seem really happy - but more than that. Eventually, I start to recognize more and more people, but there's something peculiar, these people weren't what I would have called Christian when they were alive. "How'd they get in there, and I can't?" I ask myself.

I start to get a strange sensation. I can not only SEE they are happy, but I can FEEL that they are. As I tune-in to this new ability, I realize they aren't feeling happy at all - they're feeling  unconditionally LOVED.

Suddenly a voice interrupts my thoughts - it's Jesus;"Rudy, come back up here please."

I get up off the bench, and slowly make my way up to the table again.

"So ... I believe we have more to talk about?" Jesus says quizzically.
"Yes. I think so." I reply.
"Well let's start from the top again, shall we?"
"Why should I  let you into heaven?"
"Because thou, O God, art LOVE" I reply humbly.
"That's better. Welcome" Jesus says, and stands to the side to let me in.

As I move slowly past the table, I glance down at the book, and, somehow, I know that everyone's name is in there.