Can God’s Grace Be ‘Worn Out’?

Consider aspects of the parable of Lazarus and the ‘Rich Man’ (Luke 16:19-31)

“Now there was a rich man, and he habitually dressed in purple and fine linen, joyously living in splendor every day. And a poor man named Lazarus was laid at his gate, covered with sores, and longing to be fed with the crumbs which were falling from the rich man’s table; besides, even the dogs were coming and licking his sores.

Now the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s bosom; and the rich man also died and was buried.

In Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw Abraham far away and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried out and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus so that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue, for I am in agony in this flame. But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your life you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus bad things; but now he is being comforted here, and you are in agony. ‘And besides all this, between us and you there is a great chasm fixed, so that those who wish to come over from here to you will not be able, and that none may cross over from there to us.’

And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, that you send him to my father’s house–for I have five brothers–in order that he may warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’ But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ But he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent!’ But he said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.'”

Key Points in the parable:

(a) Lazarus was poor and the Rich man was wealthy

(b) The rich man never did help the poor man who was in constant need, he let him remain a beggar while he wined and dined with all his riches

(c) They both face the same thing in the end – death

(d) After death they received different outcomes – Lazarus was in comfort and the rich man in torture (roles reversed for these two in the afterlife)

(e) No one gets more than what they already have to arrive at faith, since no one from the dead is coming back to tell you anything (the parable is obviously in reference to Jesus – but this point is also there).

What’s any of this have to do with grace? Ask the rich man.


Tanglible Salvation Theology

I would like, if you care to Societyvs , to explain your thoughts on what salvation is” (Bob)

Salvation, as I view it, has to be something tangible (a tangible experience). Previous biblical examples back me up here, from the Exodus to the Exile, salvation was always viewed as something that was a tangible experience.

So I see salvation, as taught in the NT, as salvation from one style of living to freedom in another version of it. The movement from some political or ideological paradigm to kingdom of God ethics is the movement I am talking about. It’s a movement of allegiances and paradigms – a ‘renewing of the mind’ to quote Paul.

As for the eternal view, well I do believe in an afterlife. However, since we have been given choice then I think we would be judged fairly by how we used that choice (not neccesarily if we hold this or that belief, but what we did with our beliefs). In the end, an eternal salvation depends on how one lives their life.

As for hell, there is no need for it – it was never used in previous Jewish theology. However ‘sheol’ was – which is basically the ‘grave’. Thus the need for a ‘resurrection’.

I would view the afterlife with this viewpoint – we live our life, then we pass on. Now if we lived lives worth redeeming in God’s eyes, we are resurrected to more life from death.

In this way, it all adds up – what you do now does effect what happens later, but the central piece of that theology is what you do now and our need for some help along the way.

*Comment first aired on Naked Pastor’s ‘No Smoking’ Blogpost

WestHill United Church Vision – Part II – Love

Our response to life is love (Taken from Westhill United site)

We choose love as our supreme value.  We understand love to mean the choice to act with justice, compassion, integrity, courage, forgiveness, kindness, peace, generosity, responsibility, an appreciation of beauty, and other life-enhancing values.

We acknowledge that, as a part of the web of life, we have a significant impact on the environment and all other life with which we share the planet.  We therefore strive to live consciously and caringly, increasing our awareness of the consequences of our actions, advocating for rights, and making ethically responsible decisions.

We embrace a vision of peace through social justice for all people, of all races, ethnicities, abilities, socioeconomic situations, and sexual identities and orientations. We identify and resist injustice, including oppressive and de-humanizing conditions, social structures, activities, messages, ideas, and attitudes. We help create, support, and celebrate those conditions that promote rights, respect, equity, dignity, and community.

Seeking a healthy balance between self-care and care for others, we share time, energy, talents, wisdom, knowledge, skills, material goods, and our presence with one another in order that we may inspire, encourage, delight, comfort, and help one another.

We consider relationships to be both serious responsibility and joyful privilege, calling for commitment, humility, and light-heartedness. We strive to relate with one another authentically and supportively. We value assertiveness, attentive listening, and empathetic response, and encourage the sharing of diverse views, requiring only that communication be respectful. We work toward creative problem solving and conflict resolution.  In times of broken trust, we seek mutual understanding, forgiveness, and healing.

In areas of ethical complexity, cultural diversity, and conflicting worldviews, we uphold the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and expression, and support freely-made choice.  When making moral decisions as a community, we study issues comprehensively, acknowledge uncertainty, and apply life-enhancing values as appropriately and sensitively as possible.

Part 2 of this vision focuses on love, is the statement all encompassing? Does it reflect your views on love? Is there anything missing?

WestHill United Church’s Vision – Part 1 – Interconnectedness

Our grounding is the interconnectedness of all life

“It is with a deep sense of awe and joy that we acknowledge the wonder of life in all its dimensions.  As part of the organic whole we experience life intimately, yet recognize that much is, and may always be, beyond our comprehension.

We attest to the capacity to experience and create meaning and purpose beyond physical survival and material gain. This dimension of living, which may be referred to as the spiritual, reaches to the depths of our inner self and also transcends the self as we connect with others and with all of life.

We experience both freedom and limitations in our lives. Within that tension we strive to engage with others as interrelated, self-reflective beings, responsible for our choices.

Moved by the interrelatedness of life, we choose as foundational the ethical and relational values we believe enhance life and strive to integrate these in the priorities we set and the decisions we make, both individually and as a community.  
We are aware of the wide diversity of understandings of the concepts of truth, goodness, meaning, and spirituality, as well as the many promises, predictions, and truth claims of religions and philosophies. Within that diversity, we ground our choices in our interconnections and, with our core values as a guide, explore and evaluate possibilities, embrace what we each deem helpful, and demonstrate respect for differences.

We open ourselves to new understandings of life and relationship that challenge our previously held perspectives, while availing ourselves of aspects of our heritage that resonate with our values.”

*Taken from ‘WestHill United Church’s website’

What do you think of West Hill’s part 1 of their vision statement? What do you agree with? What do you disagree with?

My Problem With Institutional Faith

It’s funny, what drove me out of the church was the institutionalization of faith (ie: rules, polices, procedures, etc). I always found it weird we develop systems to ‘get to God’ when I am not sure there is a ‘formula’ for that. There is something about making faith a process that just doesn’t work for me, seems cold and calculating for some reason or that God is like a debit machine, press the right buttons for the right responses from God.

Faith is a fluid process. It’s like water, it changes pathways to get to where it’s going and does not always flow the way it is expected. Faith embraces the unknown in the best way we know how – which seems to be through studies of the texts, history, mingled with our current experiences in the only life we have and know. So faith that does not change over time does not seem like ‘faith’ to me.

I think God is quite the enigma. I think basic relationships with one another is quite the enigma. We can know some things about God but what is it we really do know? How was it learned? How is built upon? Does it change or is it unchangeable? Is God going to answer us each time we pray? Does God become less active in someone’s life as time goes on? How much of what we know is based on feelings of certainty and not certainty? The greatness of faith is the mystery within it and how that mystery takes shape.

Truth is, my closest times to God are when I am really sincere about what it is I am invested in. For some reason when I need to reach out I am in the right place because I am totally a part of the questions I am asking of God. At those moments, there is no audible voice or anything tangible, but something happens that I cannot explain and things sort of come together. I sense I have also been heard even if no one understands what it is I am going through. That’s faith.

Where am I at with faith? I likely cannot do the church thing, and I don’t have problems with people that do, it’s just too organized for me…I see the mystery in it and this draws me in…if it’s alive and living then no organization can write a rule as to how that should function. I cannot say some hail Mary’s or read 9 chapters of the bible to arrive at something which has no qualifications pre-set.

Would Jesus Hate Islam?

In a new series called ‘What Would Jesus Do?’…

Would Jesus Hate Islam?

Think about it for a second, in the gospels he does rail against the Pharisee’s pretty hard. Some of his speech in John’s gospel is pretty inflammatory towards his own kin (Jewish people)…calling them ‘sons of the devil’ at one point. He seemed to have some anger on issues concerning religion and relations to God and neighbor according to pieces of the gospel accounts. And since Jesus is ‘the only way’ to heaven in John 14:6, what would stop this messianic figure from disliking a religion he did not start?

From a Mosque in Manhattan to a Good Ole’ Book Burning!

What’s next as the level of stupidity in parts of America continues to rise?

They want to have a book burning party to celebrate the anniversay of Sept 11, 2010 (the 9th year anniverary of the tragedy)…this time it’s the Qu’ran to be burnt. Good grief.

People on the record condemning this action – United Nations, Obama, Clinton, Angelina Jolie, The Pope, General David Petraeus, Charlotte Knobloch, president of Germany’s Central Council of Jews, etc.

Kind of funny someone Jewish would be defending this action but here is what she said ‘The idea is terrible and repulsive’…why? Oh right, because history has already taught us a lesson on actions like this. Nazi’s during WW2 burned a lot of books they deemed as no good for the state, which targeted Jewish people and their works. Sounding familiar 2010?

All this sparked by Muslims wanting to build a mosque in Manhattan…I guess I don’t see the connection? What does a burning a book have to do with a mosque being built? Oh wait, it’s a cultural war.

We don’t like those people and their beliefs so we’ll burn their sacred book as mockery to their cultural beliefs. We’ll further de-humanize a people we see as 100% responsible for everything bad that’s happened to America since the fall of Communism. As if Abu Gharib wasn’t enough, sheesh.

I am calling this one what it is, racism. Burning the Qu’ran is not being to heat someone’s home, it’s being done to humiliate a people group that hold that book with some value. I have to wonder what’s next in this onslaught on Middle East foreigners.