HOLY TRINITY, ST. PATRICK, AND SHAMROCKS!

cloverThe church year moves right along. This week, as Pentecost has just been celebrated, the year looks at the Holy Trinity. We profess the Holy trinity each week in the Nicene creed when we say, “We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son.” The are always together and in unity: God never has to call the Son and the Spirit in for an emergency meeting! It is awful hard for me as one of Irish descent to even think of the Holy Trinity without thinking of St. Patrick.  While it is debatable if St. Patrick used the shamrock to teach the trinity—as legend has it—the shamrock has come to be both a symbol of the saint as well as the Holy Trinity!

If we think of that clover leaf, we can envisage the three leaves that make the clover, each leaf standing alone, yet together with, equal to, and in unity with the others. If we look at the lectionary readings for Holy Trinity Sunday we can see the three always together, working together, and in unity.

Genesis 1:1-2 states, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.” While the Messiah is not explicably mentioned, we know from John’s Gospel that “All things were made through [the Messiah], and without him was not anything made that was made” (John 1:3). Together, in unity the three work together, just as the three leaves of the shamrock work together to make up the shamrock; the same DNA. The creed says of the Father and the Son:

“God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
of one Being with the Father.”

The Spirt, the giver of life, proceeds from the Father and the Son—the Son is the bread of life, the Spirit is the giver of life; the Spirit must be then one with the Son—who is one with the Father. While leaf one is not leaf two, and leaf two is not leaf three—which also is not leaf one—the Son is not the Father and the father is not the Son, the Spirit is neither of the two and the two are not the Spirit, they are all three the one God: Hear O Israel, the lord our God, the Lord is one!

In the Bible there is only one command that is given to be done in the name of the Holy Trinity. This points us to the Gospel reading for Holy Trinity Sunday: Matthew 28:16-20. Baptism is to be done in the name of the Holy Trinity: Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit …” Again, we look to the creed: We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins. One baptism, for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38), yet in the name of the three—which are always together, as are the leaves of the Shamrock. And, it is through the one baptism that the Spirit—which proceeds from and is one with the father and the son—is received.

Whether St. Patrick went to Connaught where he met two of King Laoghaire’s daughters, Ethne and Fedelm; St. Patrick had been unable to persuade the king to convert, but he convinced the king’s daughters; during their time of instruction St. Patrick used a shamrock to visualize the mystery of the Trinity, how a single plant with three leaves is analogous to the one Triune God with three separate and distinct Persons, might be open to debate. Or, possibly—or possibly not— St. Patrick was traveling and happened upon a number of Irish chieftains along a meadow. The tribal leaders were curious about the Trinity and asked St. Patrick for an explanation. So he bent down, picked a shamrock, and showed it to them, and explained how the three leaves are part of the one plant, and how similarly the three Persons, Father, Son, and Spirit, are part of one Supreme Being. Even more debatable is whether St. Patrick ran all the snakes out of Ireland.

But, the certainty lies in the fact that the Holy Trinity has existed from eternity past into eternity future. Three, are always together; they were together at the creation. They were together at Jesus’ baptism—the dawning of the new creation. They are together at our baptism—they give us life and all that is needed to have a favorable outcome at the final judgment.

However you describe the Holy Trinity, the words unity and one have to be a part of the description. Does a shamrock do justice to the mystery of the Trinity? Probably not. But, our language has trouble describing all things God. We believe in God; we are saved by the work of Christ on the cross; our bodies are animated by the Holy Spirit.

Until Next Time, may the Good Lord Bless and Keep You!

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REIGN OF CHRIST: Pentecost and Beyond

reignofchrist1Pentecost 2017 is now in the history books and for many it is a slow season—the season after Pentecost—as there are no ‘big’ events in the church year until the end of the year with the reign of Christ-or Christ the king. We spend the beginning of the year looking at the Advent; and too many times it seems we concentrate all of our spiritual energy from Advent to Pentecost—and for that matter focusing more of our energy on Advent and Christmas than on Easter through Pentecost. The season after Pentecost seems to get push aside. Yet, it moves toward the final date of the year—the Reign of Christ—and its teaching is rich.

We too often lose sight of the fact that the Gospels teach how Jesus—God—became King. And in the creeds themselves the middle part of the gospel message is left out. Whether you The Apostle’s Creed or the Nicene Creed they go from being ‘born to the Virgin Mary’ to ‘suffering under Pontius Pilate.’  The miracles, the parables, as well as His teachings are sadly absent. If we rely solely on the creeds we would be left to see the Messiah as being born and being crucified and resurrected. The in between 33 years he really didn’t do much. Yet, as we look at the Season after Pentecost Christ did quite a bit and taught a lot as well.

We’ve made everything about a future hope that was to happen after the Ascension and forgotten that the Christ taught us to pray for Heaven to come on earth. We’ve re-interpreted many of the parables to be about the Christ’s second coming as opposed to their original context—his incarnation! For many the parable of the Ten Minas is all about the second coming, but it is better to see it as a parable about the first coming of the Christ. Of the ruler in the parable Christ says, “his citizens hated him and sent a delegation after him, saying, ‘We do not want this man to reign over us’” (v. 14). If we think about that in relation to Luke’s reporting that when as what they wanted done with Jesus and the yelled, “crucify him,” the Parable of the Ten Minas can be seen in a new light—a light that puts the parable squarely into Jesus’ incarnation, not His second coming: The King has come to an unfaithful Israel.

America’s, and really all of western, theology has an obsession with the second coming—fueled in part by the Left Behind series. As such, we tend to want to interpret everything in relation to a second coming. We celebrate the birth; we celebrate Easter—though sadly it has become a second-rate religious holiday; we look forward to the Second Coming. We practice the creeds—we skip 33 years of the life of the Christ.

As we move through the Season after Pentecost, let us see Christ in a different setting. Let us see Christ as he became King. Let it build to the year ending Reign of Christ. The first reading in Matthew for the Season after Pentecost is Matthew 9:35-10:8, (9-23). Matthew 9:35 states, “And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction.” The Kingdom Christ proclaimed was not a future event waiting to happen; He proclaimed a Kingdom in the here and now (Mark 1:15)! He was declared King at his baptism—sadly missing from the creeds! He proved his Kingship through his miracles and his teaching as one who had authority (sadly missing from the creeds!).

While the Reign of Christ ends the church year, the Season after Pentecost shows how the King came to rule. It shows how the King set up His Kingdom and proved he was the rightful King. He taught us to pray, thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven. The King was here to show us how to make that a reality. Many might see the Season after Pentecost as a ‘lull’ in the church year, but if we look at it as showing how Christ came to rule it can be one of the richest seasons of the church year!

 

Collect of the day:

Most holy God, the source of all good desires, all right judgments, and all just works: Give to us, your servants, that peace which the world cannot give, so that our minds may be fixed on the doing of your will, and that we, being delivered from the fear of all enemies, may live in peace and quietness; through the mercies of Christ Jesus our Savior. Amen.

 

Until Next Time, May the Good Lord Bless and Keep You!

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EASTER TO PENTECOST: Have we lost sight of the Season

El_Greco_006With the Ascension—which is all too often overlook—many people (depending on the denomination, many see Easter as ending with, well, Easter; skipping the Ascension altogether, and with relatively few acknowledging the Day of Pentecost), consider Eastertide as having ended. Yet, the season of Easter begins on Easter and ends on the Day of Pentecost. Our Daily Office continues in the Easter season. Easter, the Ascension, and Pentecost work together to point—in many ways to put us in touch with—not simply the Savior and the Spirit, but with God’s newly inaugurated New Heaven and New Earth—here now in part, but with the promise of a future completion.

Easter, while teaching about the resurrection of the Lord also shows Messiah as the New King, the eternal King, the King of Heaven and earth—this is the story the gospels tell and Romans 1:4 affirms the message—points us to our own resurrection. St. Paul wrote, “We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4). Like the Christ we too can be raised, and Easter points us to that raising. Baptism, while being salvific, puts us “in” Christ: “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Galatians 3:27). At baptism, we are baptized into Christ and clothed in Christ; we are buried with him at baptism with the promise of resurrection just as He was resurrected! We will be resurrected in a physical body just as the Christ was bodily resurrected.

Paul wrote to the Church in Galatia, “I have been Crucified with Christ, it is no longer I who Lives but Christ who lives in me” (Galatians 2:20). Likewise, John gave us the words of the Lord, “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch is not able to bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither you, unless you abide in Me” (John 15:4). At salvation we are grafted into the vine and we become a part of the Vine and the Vine, which is the Messiah in us. Here the Ascension comes into full view, and a full view which sadly is all too often over looked by the western Church. Luke wrote, “as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him from their sight” (Acts 1:9). As the Christ was raised into Heaven he was seated at the right hand of God. Yet, at the Ascension, those of us who are “in Christ” also ascended in some way also. As Christ was raised bodily on Easter, at the Ascension he ascended bodily. As we were buried with him into death we to will be raised bodily and we to will bodily inhabit the New Earth. An earth that, just as we will be transformed in the twinkling of an eye, will be transformed in the same twinkling of an eye. As Jesus ascended bodily, we will inhabit bodily. At the ascension, a bit of earth made its way to Heaven. But, Eastertide continues to Pentecost.

“And when the day of Pentecost arrived …” (Acts 2).  With Pentecost our Easter season comes to an end. But our story does not stop there. For just as Easter and the Ascension point to the future, Pentecost also in a powerful way does the exact same thing. Too often we want to capitalize on the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit when we think of Pentecost—and that I fine as they are a part of it. But, Pentecost points to a larger picture that gives us more promises. At Pentecost the Holy Spirit descended and filled the people. And the promise was given that we too will be filled with the Holy Spirit: Repent and be baptized every one of you for the remission of your sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). With the coming of the Holy Spirit, Heaven and earth intersect. Just as at the Ascension a bit of earth went to Heaven, on the day of Pentecost Heaven came to Earth. While this is a present reality for all believers—the filling with the Holy Spirit—it points to a future reality. John wrote, “Then I saw a new Heaven and a new earth, for the first Heaven and the first earth had passed away” (Revelation 21:1).  As Heaven invaded earth on the day of Pentecost, at the end Heaven again will intersect earth. At this intersection, those who have been clothed in Christ—those who remain in Him and He in them—will be raised bodily and become inhabitants of the New Earth unto which the New Heaven will come down—Heaven will invade earth one last time and the earth will be put t rights for eternity; Those who were buried with Christ will be raised bodily as the inhabitants of the new earth!

At the resurrection, we to are raised; a bit of us ascends into Heaven, and Heaven invades us on the day of Pentecost. The Easter season fits together as does pieces of a puzzle. To leave out one piece is to finish a puzzle without its being a complete picture. All too often we stop Easter on Resurrection Sunday. When we lose sight of Easter we do not grasp humankind  being bodily resurrected; when we lose sight of the Ascension we do not grasp humankind being received into Heaven; and when we lose sight of Pentecost we do not grasp humankind being animated by God’s Holy Spirit. All of these are pointing to the time When God renews all things.

Easter continues through the day of Pentecost and includes the Ascension of our Lord.

 

Collect for Easter Season: Almighty God, who on this day didst open the way of eternal life to every race and nation by the promised gift of the Holy Spirit: Shed abroad this gift throughout the world by the preaching of the Gospel, that it may reach to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the same Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

 

Until next time may the good Lord bless and keep you!

 

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THE ASCENSION OF OUR LORD

AscensionAs the church year rolls along, this week—May 25—we celebrated the Ascension of our Lord, the Messiah. Among the passages for the Ascension are Acts 1:1-11, the Psalms that speak of the Lord being King (Psalm 47 and 93), and the Gospel of Luke 24:44-53 and which says, “While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven” (v. 51). We have to look at this close—He was carried up into Heaven.

We know that at His resurrection the Messiah was raised with a physical body; He ate physical food with them (Luke 24:40); They touched His physical body (John 20:17, Matthew 28:9, John 20:27). Yet, though He was physically raised in a real body, He could walk through walls (John 20:19-20). So, He was raised in his physical body—the same physical body that he had at the crucifixion—yet, while He was the same he was somewhat changed. And, at the Ascension this same—yet somewhat different—body ascended into Heaven: flesh and blood “was carried up into Heaven.”

            The belief of 1st Century, Second Temple Judaism was for a physical body resurrection—of course they expected this at the end of days, not in the middle of history as Jesus did. Looking at 2 Baruch 50:2 we see how the Jews expected the dead to rise, “For the earth will surely give back the dead at that time; it receives them now in order to keep them, not changing anything in their form. But as it has received them so it will give them back. And as I have delivered them to it so it will raise them.” Second Maccabees also addresses the resurrection, “One cannot but choose to die at the hands of mortals and to cherish the hope God gives of being raised again by him. But for you there will be no resurrection to life.”  Second Temple Judaism did not look forward to some disembodied afterlife existence, but forward to a raised physical body—a resurrection of their physical body, flesh and blood just as Christ was raised!

Yet, Paul tells us that flesh and blood cannot go to the Kingdom of Heaven (1 Corinthians 15:50). We are faced with a dilemma: Christ went into Heaven physical bodily and Paul says flesh and blood cannot go into Heaven. The Jews looked toward a physical body resurrection in the Kingdom of Heaven.

            While it looks as a contradiction, if we look at Paul’s words a bit closer we might see it a bit different. Paul’s usage if ‘flesh and blood’ has to be looked at as a figure of speech. Flesh and blood has to be looked at as an un-regenerated person—the unsaved, the person who still lives according to the flesh. At the resurrection the body will be animated by the Holy Spirit. It has to be remembered that it was by the power of the Holy Spirit that Jesus was resurrected (Romans 1:4). And it will be by the same power that the saved person will be resurrected—resurrected bodily in a flesh and blood body just as was the Christ. The “flesh and blood” then would be, a body not animated by the divine Spirit—an un-regenerated person. Jesus’ ascension was a body animated by the Spirit. 

            Jesus’ ascension was into the realm of God—into God’s space. And. This space of God intersects with our space—Heaven is where God is; and where God is intersects with where we are. And, as N. T. Wright put it, “The Jesus who has gone into [God’s dimension] is the human Jesus.” The “us” that will be resurrected is the human “us.” The ascension teaches us that while flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of Heaven (the unsaved person—the person not animated by the Holy Spirit), flesh and blood will inherit the kingdom of Heaven—the saved person, the body animated by the Holy Spirit! As Wright put it, for Jesus to go into the heavenly dimension, is not for him to go up as a spaceman miles up into space somewhere, and not for him to be distant or absent now. It is for him to be present, but in the mode in which heaven is present to us. That is, it’s just through an invisible screen, but present and real.”

            Too often we look close at Easter and overlook the Ascension as we move towards Pentecost. Yet, the Ascension shows us who will inherit the kingdom of Heaven as well as in what form the they will be in at the resurrection. We too often see the ascension as Jesus leaving, yet he is always present with us. Are you animated by the Holy Spirit?

At the Ascension a bit of earth went to Heaven and at Pentecost a bit of Heaven came to earth.

Let us not overlook the Ascension!

Collect for the Ascension:

O Almighty God, whose blessed Son our Savior Jesus Christ 
ascended far above all heavens that he might fill all things: 
Mercifully give us faith to perceive that, according to his 
promise, he abideth with his Church on earth, even to the 
end of the ages; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, who 
liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, in 
glory everlasting. Amen.

 In June, Theology From the Coast will begin a podcast on YouTube; more details will come soon.

Until Next Time May the Good Lord Bless and Keep You; All Y’all!

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When In Rome (part1): Euangelion

ColosseumNight2More has been written about the book of Romans than possibly any book of the Bible—with the possible exception of Revelation. From Augustine to Luther the book has been credited with the turning around of lives.  And early one St. Paul makes known one of the main themes of the epistle: the gospel. The Greek word he uses is euangelion, which simply translates as good news. Paul makes it known that he was set apart for the Gospel, the Good news, the euangelion, of God. Over the years the gospel –especially in the modern western church, the euangelion, has been watered down to simply believe in Jesus and go to be with God when you die, a sort of fire insurance. And while that might be a part of its message, is that the good news, the euangelion, that Paul was proclaiming to the church in Rome?

            In 1st century usage, the euangelion meant something different than its modern usage. The good news was a proclamation. It was a proclamation that something had happened, and because that something had happened something else would happen. It could be the accession or birthday of a ruler or emperor.[1] When Nero ascended there would have been a proclamation of this good news—this euangelion. And the good news, the euangelion, that St. Paul is proclaiming to the church in Rome is that we have a new King—his name is Jesus. N. T. Wright asserts, “Jesus saw himself as a prophet announcing and inaugurating the kingdom of YHWH; he believed himself to be Israel’s true Messiah; he believed that the kingdom would be brought about by means of his own death at the hands of the pagans. He believed, that is, that the message of the Isaianic herald was coming true at last: Israel’s god was becoming king, ‘Babylon’ was being defeated, and the exile was over at last.”[2] While Israel was back from physical exile, they were still under the Roman rule. Now, the true King had returned and Israel was at last returned from exile. Jesus the Christ was King of Heaven and earth.

            For the Gentiles—the church in Rome was made of both Jews and Gentiles, they can now be grafted into the covenant with the Jews (Romans 11). As well it allows the Gentiles to return from exile: their exile from God due to sin. But, now the good news, the euangelion, that Paul proclaims to the church in Rome is that there is a new King, an eternal King, of Heaven and earth. And because there is a new King has returned Heaven and earth have come together. Both Jew and Gentile are welcomed into the covenant. The Jew has returned from exile as the King has returned for the Gentile their exile from sin is possible. The age to come has been inaugurated. Our exile is over. When we celebrate the Eucharist we taste the new world and of which we are a part.

            Paul was not ashamed, or as Krister Stendahl writes afraid[3], to proclaim the new King to the people who shouted we have no king but Caesar and to those in the town where the Caesar resided. Why then do we hesitate so often to so do?

 

Until next time may the Good Lord Bless and Keep You: All Y’all!

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[1] N. T. Wright, Romans (Nashville: Abingdon Press: 2002), 415. 

[2] N. T Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God V2: Christian Origins and the Question of God (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1995), Kindle Location 12380-12394.

 

[3] Krister Stendahl, Final Account: Paul’s Letter to the Romans (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1995) Kindle Location 309.