Ye are …

You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. (Matthew 5:14)

Good things that you are:

  • Matthew 5:13–Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.
  • Matthew 5:14–Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.
  • Matthew 10:31–Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows.
  • Matthew 23:8–But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren.
  • Luke 12:7–But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows.
  • Luke 22:28–Ye are they which have continued with me in my temptations.
  • Luke 24:48–And ye are witnesses of these things.
  • John 4:38–I sent you to reap that whereon ye bestowed no labour: other men laboured, and ye are entered into their labours.
  • John 10:34–Jesus answered them, Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods?
  • John 13:10–Jesus saith to him, He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit: and ye are clean, but not all.
  • John 13:35–By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.
  • John 15:3–Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.
  • John 15:5–I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.
  • John 15:14–Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.
  • John 15:19–If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.
  • Acts 3:25–Ye are the children of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying unto Abraham, And in thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed.
  • Acts 7:26–And the next day he shewed himself unto them as they strove, and would have set them at one again, saying, Sirs, ye are brethren; why do ye wrong one to another?
  • Romans 6:14–For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.
  • Romans 6:16–Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?
  • Romans 8:9–But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.
  • Romans 9:26–And it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people; there shall they be called the children of the living God.
  • 1 Corinthians 1:5–That in every thing ye are enriched by him, in all utterance, and in all knowledge;
  • 1 Corinthians 3:3–For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?
  • 1 Corinthians 3:9–For we are labourers together with God: ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building.
  • 1 Corinthians 3:16–Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?
  • 1 Corinthians 3:17–If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.
  • 1 Corinthians 3:23–And ye are Christ’s; and Christ is God’s.
  • 1 Corinthians 5:4–In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ,
  • 1 Corinthians 5:7–Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us:
  • 1 Corinthians 6:11–And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.
  • 1 Corinthians 6:19–What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?
  • 1 Corinthians 6:20–For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.
  • 1 Corinthians 7:23–Ye are bought with a price; be not ye the servants of men.
  • 1 Corinthians 12:27–Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.
  • 1 Corinthians 14:12–Even so ye, forasmuch as ye are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the church.
  • 1 Corinthians 15:2–By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.
  • 2 Corinthians 1:7–And our hope of you is stedfast, knowing, that as ye are partakers of the sufferings, so shall ye be also of the consolation.
  • 2 Corinthians 3:2–Ye are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read of all men:
  • 2 Corinthians 3:3–Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart.
  • 2 Corinthians 6:12–Ye are not straitened in us, but ye are straitened in your own bowels.
  • 2 Corinthians 6:16–And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
  • 2 Corinthians 7:3–I speak not this to condemn you: for I have said before, that ye are in our hearts to die and live with you.
  • 2 Corinthians 13:9–For we are glad, when we are weak, and ye are strong: and this also we wish, even your perfection.
  • Galatians 3:26–For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.
  • Galatians 3:28–There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.
  • Galatians 4:6–And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.
  • Galatians 4:12–Brethren, I beseech you, be as I am; for I am as ye are: ye have not injured me at all.
  • Galatians 5:18–But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law.
  • Ephesians 2:5–Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)
  • Ephesians 2:19–Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God;
  • Ephesians 4:1–I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called,
  • Ephesians 4:4–There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling;
  • Ephesians 4:30–And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.
  • Colossians 2:10–And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power:
  • Colossians 2:11–In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ:
  • Colossians 2:12–Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.
  • Colossians 3:3–For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.
  • Colossians 3:15–And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful.
  • 1 Thessalonians 2:10–Ye are witnesses, and God also, how holily and justly and unblameably we behaved ourselves among you that believe:
  • 1 Thessalonians 2:20–For ye are our glory and joy.
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:5–Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness.
  • Hebrews 12:18–For ye are not come unto the mount that might be touched, and that burned with fire, nor unto blackness, and darkness, and tempest,
  • Hebrews 12:22–But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels,
  • James 2:7–Do not they blaspheme that worthy name by the which ye are called?
  • 1 Peter 1:6–Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations:
  • 1 Peter 2:9–But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light;
  • 1 Peter 3:6–Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement.
  • 1 Peter 3:9–Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing.
  • 1 Peter 4:13–But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.
  • 1 John 2:14–I have written unto you, fathers, because ye have known him that is from the beginning. I have written unto you, young men, because ye are strong, and the word of God abideth in you, and ye have overcome the wicked one.
  • 1 John 4:4–Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.

Bad things you might be:

  • Matthew 23:27–Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness.
  • Matthew 23:28–Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.
  • Matthew 23:31–Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets.
  • Luke 9:55–But he turned, and rebuked them, and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of.
  • Luke 11:44–Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are as graves which appear not, and the men that walk over them are not aware of them.
  • Luke 13:25–When once the master of the house is risen up, and hath shut to the door, and ye begin to stand without, and to knock at the door, saying, Lord, Lord, open unto us; and he shall answer and say unto you, I know you not whence ye are:
  • Luke 13:27–But he shall say, I tell you, I know you not whence ye are; depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity.
  • Luke 16:15–And he said unto them, Ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knoweth your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God.
  • John 8:23–And he said unto them, Ye are from beneath; I am from above: ye are of this world; I am not of this world.
  • John 8:37–I know that ye are Abraham’s seed; but ye seek to kill me, because my word hath no place in you.
  • John 8:44–Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.
  • John 8:47–He that is of God heareth God’s words: ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God.
  • John 10:26–But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you.
  • John 13:11–For he knew who should betray him; therefore said he, Ye are not all clean.
  • Acts 17:22–Then Paul stood in the midst of Mars’ hill, and said, Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious.
  • Romans 6:16–Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?
  • Romans 6:21–What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death.
  • 1 Corinthians 3:3–For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?
  • 1 Corinthians 4:8–Now ye are full, now ye are rich, ye have reigned as kings without us: and I would to God ye did reign, that we also might reign with you.
  • 1 Corinthians 4:10–We are fools for Christ’s sake, but ye are wise in Christ; we are weak, but ye are strong; ye are honourable, but we are despised.
  • 1 Corinthians 5:2–And ye are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he that hath done this deed might be taken away from among you.
  • 1 Corinthians 14:23–If therefore the whole church be come together into one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in those that are unlearned, or unbelievers, will they not say that ye are mad?
  • Galatians 1:6–I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel:
  • Galatians 5:4–Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.
  • Hebrews 5:11–Of whom we have many things to say, and hard to be uttered, seeing ye are dull of hearing.

First and a half advent

[There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.] He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. (John 1:7)

The first advent was the period of time waiting for the Savior to arrive. The second advent is Jesus’s coming again to reign in power. It wasn’t until this year that the time just before Jesus’s public ministry is also an advent, especially the ministry of John the Baptist, who testified to Jesus, the Light of the world.

And this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.” 21And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.” So they said to him, “Who are you? We need to give an answer to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.”

(Now they had been sent from the Pharisees.) They asked him, “Then why are you baptizing, if you are neither the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” John answered them, “I baptize with water, but among you stands one you do not know, even he who comes after me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.” These things took place in Bethany across the Jordan, where John was baptizing.

The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.’ I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.” And John bore witness: “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.”

The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples, and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. (John 1:19-36)

And then, for most intents and purposes, John drops out of the story, except, in the gospel of John, to witness onec more to Jesus:

And [John’s disciples] came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, he who was with you across the Jordan, to whom you bore witness–look, he is baptizing, and all are going to him.” John answered, “A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven. You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him.’ The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:26-30)

John the Baptist’s taglines: “He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, ‘I am not the Christ.'” and “He must increase, but I must decrease.”

The Lord’s ways are not our ways

Seek the Lord while he may be found, call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake their way, and the unrighteous their thoughts; let them return to the Lord, that he may have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord. (Isaiah 55:6-8)

There are many ways that the Lord’s thoughts and ways are not our thoughts and ways, but I think this passage highlights two:

  1. We tend towards wickedness and unrighteousness; The Lord is holy and righteous. If we are to be near the Lord, we must “return,” that is, repent of what we have done–even, I suppose, of what we are.
  2. The Lord  desires to pardon us, and will do so “abundantly.” We tend to  be chary in our forgiveness, at best meting it out for our own purposes. The Lord seeks to pardon any who desire to return, not for the Lord’s own sake, but ours.

Lord, help us to return to you. Help us to forgive as we have been forgiven.

Spiritual Israel, a witness to all peoples

See, I made [David] a witness to the peoples, a leader and commander for the peoples. See, you shall call nations that you do not know, and nations that do not know you shall run to you, because of the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, for he has glorified you. (Isaiah 55:4-5)

First, God calls out:

Come, everyone who thirsts,
come to the waters;
and he who has no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without price.

Then, God makes the astounding promise:

I will make with you an everlasting covenant,
my steadfast, sure love for David.

What did God do for David? Our verses today tell:

See, I made [David] a witness to the peoples, a leader and commander for the peoples.

And then the promise to those who come, by analogy:

See, you shall call nations that you do not know, and nations that do not know you shall run to you, because of the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, for he has glorified you.

This is the promise that God made to Israel. And God has fulfilled this promise, although in the strangest way. Israel was, and is, a witness to the one true God, and people from many nations became God-fearers through them. But, marvelous to say, God came to Israel in the flesh, the Word made flesh and dwelling among them. The gospel of Jesus went out throughout the world as his early followers, all born Jews, crossed the Jew-Gentile borders and a new “spiritual” Israel came into being. Thus, “all nations ran” to Israel because of the Lord, and gloried Israel by extending its borders beyond the land of Israel throughout the world.

It’s a very real crime that the new “spiritual” Israel returned the favor with centuries of pograms and persecutions against Jews in their midst, rather than recognizing them for the people of God the scriptures call them (in both testaments).

Still, we must continue to bear witness the best we can, we who have no money, to the goodness of God, and remember that God’s promises to David and to Israel (to Jews and Gentile believers alike) is an everlasting one.

Truth, gospel, love, faith, hope, grace

You have heard of this hope before in the word of the truth, the gospel that has come to you. Just as it is bearing fruit and growing in the whole world, so it has been bearing fruit among yourselves from the day you heard it and truly comprehended the grace of God. (Colossians 1: 5b-6)

The author says he is grateful for the Colossians and “the faith and love that spring from the hope that is stored up for [them] in heaven.” Because of the hope of heaven, they choose to be faithful and to exhibit real love, which is the fruit that is being borne in them, ever since they understood for the first time what God’s grace was like.

Here we have perhaps all the top special Christians words: truth, gospel, love, faith, hope, grace. God extends grace towards humankind, and people bear witness to this truth by spreading the good news. God’s grace pardons human sin, and thus provides a great hope of our being together with God. This, in turn, leads us to live the kind of life that pleases God, that God calls us to, and would make us pleasant companions forever: to live faithfully towards God and one another, and to love God and one another.

What’s not to like?

The audacity of hope

For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? (Romans 8:24)

Or “in this hope.” What are we hoping for? The hope which was discussed yesterday:

For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. … And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.

Paul’s statement that hope, by definition, requires not having the object hoped for, appears, on the face of things, to be a bit silly. Why is he telling us this?

But remember how Paul starts this section:

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.

The point is, we currently experience difficulties and strife, and Paul is reminding us that our current sufferings pale in comparison to our future glory. We will be reveald as God’s children, God’s adopted ones; our bodies themselves (the vehicle, as it were, of our difficulties and strife) will be redeemed.

So, we are not saved by hope, we are saved in hope. Hope is in the air we breathe, the way we look at our lives. We are borne along by hope, a reminder to us in the present of what will be true in the future. Hope is the opposite of dread.

Paul’s Mother Earth

The creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. (Romans 8:20b-23)

One doesn’t expect “Mother Earth” images in Paul’s writings, but here it is: creation itself is writhing in birth pangs.

The pain it feels–the pain we feel–is our “bondage to decay.” We are slaves to decay; “time and chance happeneth to them all” (Ecclesiastes 9:11).

What does Mother Earth give birth to? Not to ourselves, in Paul’s image, but to our full adoption, “the redemption of our bodies.” Not just birthed, but fully raised, and fully accepted as sons and daughters of God, “the freedom and the glory of the children of God.”

So, part of Paul’s reasoning about pain, sorrow and decay–it’s the natural order of things. This is in line with non-theistic views of pain–bad things happen because this is how the world just is. But Paul’s good news subverts this. We somehow sense that the pain of childbirth, though as natural as anything, is at the same time profoundly unnatural–it seems wrong that something so connected with the giving of life should be also so connected with pain that makes one groan.

Especially those of us who have “tasted and seen that the Lord is good,” who have received and recognize the gifts that God has given us, have this hope: one day, all of our pain and suffering will be redeemed. It would be enough that God would see us through our difficulties, dayenu, but God promises even more: the redemption of those difficulties, the redemption of our very lives.

Praise be to God.

Forgive the song that falls so low

I will give thanks to you, O Lord, among the peoples, and I will sing praises to you among the nations. (Psalm 108:3)

Forgive the song that falls so low,
Beneath the gratitude I owe–
It means Thy praise. However poor,
An angel’s song can do no more.

Great God, and wilt Thou condescend
To be my Father and my Friend.
I, a poor child, and thou, so high.
The Lord of earth, and air and sky.

Text taken from the Sacred Harp tune “Cowper.” The first verse is by William Cowper (original in The Olney Hymns, which also contains Amazing Grace by Isaac Newton).  The second verse is by Ann Taylor, who, along with her sister Jane (the author of “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star”) wrote many popular poems and hymns for children.

You are my destiny

[The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ] has made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he set forth in Christ, as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance, having been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will. (Ephesians 1:9-11)

The first chapter of Ephesians is an ecstatic meditation on the wonder of God’s improbably marvelous plan “from the foundation of the world” to retrieve, “in the fullness of time,”  all things that have been scattered. This is something which gives God great pleasure to do, and God brings us into the plan: we can fully expect to see that God’s plans for ourselves and the universe will be accomplished.

I suspect that the earliest Anabaptists took great joy and comfort in these words, but I suspect that many Anabaptists thinkers have shied away from talk about God’s choice–and that scary word, “predestined” which is used in this chapter twice, although you’d be hard put to notice this in the version chosen for today’s passage.

From the Southern Baptists who first prompted me to accept Jesus as my Lord and Savior, I learned that I had to choose to follow Jesus, and that Jesus would save me.

From Christians in the Reformed tradition, I learned that God was sovereign, and something of the ecstasy of delight in this deepest of truths.

From the Mennonites, I have been learning again (and again, and again) to choose to follow Jesus as teacher, role model and Lord both personally, and in the company of fellow disciples. And I hope in doing so, I do not forget these facts: Jesus will save me, and God is sovereign.

Reactions to the teaching and power of Jesus

The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, “What is this? A new teaching—and with authority! He even gives orders to evil spirits and they obey him.” News about him spread quickly over the whole region of Galilee. (Mark 1: 27-28)

This is the initial reaction to Jesus’s teaching. People were excited. People were glad. Jesus came with something new to say, something they hadn’t heard before. And he didn’t just quote scripture–it was as if he was making scripture. Jesus came with power, heaing those he chose, and ordering evil around, evil spirits fleeing at his command. No wonder word about him spread.

In Luke’s gospel telling of this story, this follows immediately after the first attempt on Jesus’s life. He’d taught with authority and power in his hometown, but this so angered them they attempted to push him off a cliff. But he miraculously escapes.

Eventually, the anger of crowds will kill him.

Like good men of many times–one thinks of Martin Luther King, Abraham Lincoln, and Mahatma Ghandi–he is put to death by evil. Unlike even the best of these others, his death became a pardon for his followers; and unlike even the best of these others, he is raised by God to raise his followers to new life. And it is news about this that has spread from Jerusalem, to Galilee and all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.