Holy Evolution

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Holy Evolution

Jeremiah 49:7-11

Judgment on Edom

Concerning Edom.

Thus says the Lord of hosts:

Is there no longer wisdom in Teman?

Has counsel perished from the prudent?

Has their wisdom vanished?

Flee, turn back, get down low,

inhabitants of Dedan!

For I will bring the calamity of Esau upon him,

the time when I punish him.

If grape-gatherers came to you,

would they not leave gleanings?

If thieves came by night,

even they would pillage only what they wanted.

But as for me, I have stripped Esau bare,

I have uncovered his hiding places,

and he is not able to conceal himself.

His offspring are destroyed, his kinsfolk

and his neighbors; and he is no more.

Leave your orphans, I will keep them alive;

and let your widows trust in me.

Ephesians 4:17-5:2

The Old Life and the New

Now this I affirm and insist on in the Lord: you must no longer live as the Gentiles live, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of their ignorance and hardness of heart. They have lost all sensitivity and have abandoned themselves to licentiousness, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. That is not the way you learned Christ! For surely you have heard about him and were taught in him, as truth is in Jesus. You were taught to put away your former way of life, your old self, corrupt and deluded by its lusts, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to clothe yourselves with the new self, created according to the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

Rules for the New Life

So then, putting away falsehood, let all of us speak the truth to our neighbors, for we are members of one another. Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not make room for the devil. Thieves must give up stealing; rather let them labor and work honestly with their own hands, so as to have something to share with the needy. Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were marked with a seal for the day of redemption. Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you. 5 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

If the word “revolutionI” implies a turning back than I suppose the term “evolution” must, in its pre-Darwinian root mean a turning forward. Most of us are against both revolution and evolution because it implies a change of natural state for us into something we have not yet seen. Even if we want to have a revolution and return to a time 50 or 100 years ago, we never truly go back, we just change into something similar, but different.

It happens in politics and it happens in our own lives as well. We grow and change and it makes us uncomfortable not knowing what tomorrow will bring. The death of Fidel Castro is a good example of this. The people of Cuba have been split as to whether to see this as a moment of new freedom or a reason to fear the future, for while Castro brought fear into many who did not support his policies, he also helped protect Cuba from being taken over by the drug lords that threaten and hold much political power throughout much of Central America. Change is not necessarily good or bad… it is just change, and we may encounter a bad surprise if we take on the attitude that it cannot get any worse than it already is.

Darwin’s evolution theory/concept/however you define it, is based upon the idea that the strong1 survive and the weak die. However, the definitions of strong and weak are rather fluid and undergo a kind of evolution themselves. What was considered strength 3000 years ago – muscles, child-bearing hips, an ability to go long periods of time without food or water, do not get you as far today. Communication skills may not have been key back in the ancient world, but they certainly are a strength today. It’s more than brains as well. The kinds of things that get you ahead today are not necessarily math and science in the classical sense. In our market-saturated economy, people skills and behavioral analysis have taken precedence over chemistry and geometry. What was once considered weakness is now considered strength… and still we continue to change.

God has another take. He brings justice down upon the strong – particularly the strong who lord it over others instead of caring for them. Then He invites the weakest of the weak to come join Him and be honored. That is Who God is throughout all of scripture, and He calls us to take on that same character ourselves. We are asked to turn over our strengths and serve in weakness, trusting in Him instead of ourselves. It is a holy evolution, that works contrary to what we all, creationists and evolutionists alike, consider to be the basic law of nature. We think if we want to survive and thrive, we have to be strong. God shows us that if we want to live and live abundantly in His grace, we have to be weak instead. Are you weak enough to live in the grace and justice of God?

What do you consider your greatest strengths to be?

What weaknesses do you struggle with?

How is God redeeming all of these?


  1. To be fair, Darwin’s claim was survival of the fittest not necessarily the strongest, but the concept remains the same.

Death

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Death

Acts 7:55-8:1

But filled with the Holy Spirit, he gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. “Look,” he said, “I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!” But they covered their ears, and with a loud shout all rushed together against him. Then they dragged him out of the city and began to stone him; and the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul. While they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he knelt down and cried out in a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he died.

And Saul approved of their killing him.

Stephen would have made a great preacher.

He was willing to serve with his hands and feet, but he was not afraid to stand up and speak his mind when he was given the opportunity. In fact, I think his single greatest characteristic was his courage. He was also a foreigner. I think that gave him a huge advantage over the twelve apostles, who all hailed from Galilee and had much more distinguished Jewish roots. They were battling over 500 years of captivity and the political theology (yes, it is a thing) that plagued their worlds. For them, you could not talk about how God could be good and powerful without questioning why Rome still ruled Jerusalem. For Stephen, who grew up in the Roman culture, perhaps in a Roman family though, he did not see the problem.

So when he confronted the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem, trying to speak truth into their lives on their home turf, they would not stand for it. He, a tainted foreigner could never understand what they had been tackling for generations. He, an undereducated, Greek-speaking servant could never teach them. He was as bad as the carpenter that they had crucified just a few weeks earlier. This time, they did not have to deal with the politics of Passover and winning the crowds over. This time, they had the upper hand… and they lifted up and heaved stones at him until he was dead.

Instead of keeping Stephen safe to teach a new generation of disciples (and possibly due to Stephen’s own rash nature) God took him home after that first sermon. Perhaps It was so good, there was no act to follow it. But something happened that day that was more important than a sermon and more important than Stephen himself. Luke tells us that there, in the midst of those angry Jewish scholars and leaders, a certain man named Saul was watching over the proceedings. Saul was also a passionate man who had been taught and groomed from a young age to become the next president of the Jewish Sanhedrin. (That is like the Jewish Pope, so to speak). Paul would have been excellent at it as well. He was well versed in the Jewish scriptures, but he also had a bit of Greek background himself. He probably stood the best chance of anyone at bringing peace to the Middle East in the constant battle between the Jews and Rome because he could stand in both worlds and speak both languages. Luke tries so much to tell us this in the Book. of Acts and sometimes we westerners miss the crucial fact of Saul /Paul’s identity.

This Saul, would have an encounter with Jesus just a few days later that would change the history of the world as we know it, and Luke shows us that this occurred in part because of Stephen. It was not his words, or presentation. In fact, there was nothing about Stephen’s last act that inspired Paul enough to even try to save his life. It was his death, in fact, the way he died, that I think left the biggest impression on Saul. He was a man who understood conflict, and one who would not have been surprised to face execution by the Romans himself if things got out of hand. He saw his job in part was to prevent things from escalating that far. But looking into the eyes of this dying man Stephen, Saul saw none of the fear he faced himself. Instead he heard these words:

“Lord, do not hold this sin against them.”

No anger, no bitterness, not even a cry for relief. Instead, he saw compassion for Stephen’s enemies… for Saul himself.

We all face enemies. We all will face death. Every single one of us. How we do so may be the greatest act of leadership of our entire lives. Long after our words are gone. Long after our friends and family have moved on to new relationships and routines, those who were with us at the end will remember how we faced the moment we lost everything and showed our true colors.

Years later, Saul would follow Stephen, leaving his potential for bringing peace to the Middle East for a crazy mission of bringing Jesus to the rest of the world. He left the one place he fit in the most, to go where he never fit in, where politicians would pass him around like a hot potato, until he would speak before the emperor of the Roman Empire itself about the saving and life transforming grace of Jesus Christ. There, as Paul stood before one whom the early church would deem an anti-Christ figure, I can’t help but believe that he saw those compassionate eyes of Stephen again as the executioner walked toward him.

How do you face adversity in your life?

What, if anything, do you think would take away your fear of death?

What can we do today to prepare ourselves for facing our enemies and facing our own death?

The Art and Science of God – The Wild Way of Holiness

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The Art and Science of God

The Wild Way of Holiness

Jonah 4

Jonah’s Anger

But this was very displeasing to Jonah, and he became angry. He prayed to the Lord and said, “O Lord! Is not this what I said while I was still in my own country? That is why I fled to Tarshish at the beginning; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and ready to relent from punishing. And now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.” And the Lord said, “Is it right for you to be angry?” Then Jonah went out of the city and sat down east of the city, and made a booth for himself there. He sat under it in the shade, waiting to see what would become of the city.

The Lord God appointed a bush, and made it come up over Jonah, to give shade over his head, to save him from his discomfort; so Jonah was very happy about the bush. But when dawn came up the next day, God appointed a worm that attacked the bush, so that it withered. When the sun rose, God prepared a sultry east wind, and the sun beat down on the head of Jonah so that he was faint and asked that he might die. He said, “It is better for me to die than to live.”

Jonah Is Reproved

But God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry about the bush?” And he said, “Yes, angry enough to die.” Then the Lord said, “You are concerned about the bush, for which you did not labor and which you did not grow; it came into being in a night and perished in a night. And should I not be concerned about Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also many animals?” “

Before we close the book on Jonah, there is one important thing we need to acknowledge. The story of Jonah was not written to the people of Ninevah. In fact, it probably was not written to any of Israel’s neighbors either. This is a story that has been passed on to and preserved for God’s own people over the ages.

That is going to change the kind of takeaway we get from this story. In fact, if it were just written to those outside the faith, we could probably end the story (much like the story of the Prodigal Son) early. Jonah, chapter 4, helps us look back and re-view this whole story about how God uses mercy to work His will in our world, and the way that God’s mercy is sometimes harder to swallow than God’s wrath.

Ninevah miraculously repents, and instead of giving God praise or celebrating with them at the thousands of new believers that have entered God’s kingdom, Jonah, like the elder son in the Parable of the Prodigal, Jonah gets annoyed, frustrated, and even angry. You see LORD, this is why I ran away to Tarsus! I knew you would have mercy on them if I came here, and these people don’t deserve it! Jonah had wanted to see the fireworks of Judgment Day fall upon these people he considered enemies. Instead, God redeemed them. And Jonah was not happy.

Peter wrote to the early church, reminding them of the purpose of God’s work in our world and in us.

1 Peter 1:13-16

A Call to Holy Living

Therefore prepare your minds for action; discipline yourselves; set all your hope on the grace that Jesus Christ will bring you when he is revealed. Like obedient children, do not be conformed to the desires that you formerly had in ignorance. Instead, as he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in all your conduct; for it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”1

Holiness. It is the stuff that flows out of those points and moments of grace in our lives. It is the fruit that God raises in the soil of our being. And it trips us up when we try to take the wheel and drive it ourselves.

Here is how it usually breaks down. We preach and teach forgiveness and grace as a holy mystery – nothing scientific or practical about God dealing with our past sin. Then we switch gears completely and say, from here on out, it is our responsibility to do the right thing and sanctification, or the growth in holiness and the dealing with sin in the present and in the future is taught as something sterile, practical, and behavioral.

Want to quit swearing for Jesus? Put a rubber band around your wrist and snap yourself every time you swear. Put money in a swear jar. Write down in a journal the times you have sinned and share that with an accountability group. These are some of the many ways we teach holiness in our life, and while they can be helpful, they all come straight from behavioral psychology. I have nothing against behavioral psychology, but it assumes that either 1.) God does not exist, or 2.) That God does not intervene in our world. It takes us right back to Deism again.

I believe there is both art and science in all of God’s work. That means that while there is mystery in the way God forgives us of our past sins – there is a bit of logic and science to it as well. I would bet that, if studies were done, there would be significant brain changes, blood pressure relief, and some degree of general physical healing when a person accepted God’s forgiveness – especially for the first time. I think there are some kinds of things we can expect every time, from every person when they take some of those important steps to being a Christian. We may not be able to systematize the whole thing, but I suspect there are at least as many similarities as differences.

I also believe that our growth in grace is not any more systematic than our initial acceptance of it. Some parts we can plan. Some aspects are formulaic. Do this and don’t do that. But I think the real power in growing as a disciple of Jesus, walking that wild path of holiness, comes from God Himself as He intervenes into our lives every day, using both the good and bad experiences we have, to show us more of Him and His love, and to transform us from the people we are, into the people He has created us to become. We all need to learn to pray, but we will all have different experiences that will teach us the value of prayer and the methods of doing it. We all need to learn to search in and trust God’s Word, but the way I read my Bible may differ from the way you read yours, and some of those differences are intended by God. We all need to love one another. How that looks may be as varied and unique as the number of people God is calling. We will all struggle with holiness in different ways, and God, through His artistic prowess, will weave our stories of victories and failures, into a work of art that will overflow with His grace, encourage, and even direct those around us and the generations that follow us.

We all, as God’s people, are much like Jonah, and God will use us, with us or in spite of us, to do the amazing work of bringing grace and holiness into our world.

Harvesting in the Spring

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Harvesting in the Spring

John 4:27–42 (NRSV)

27 Just then his disciples came. They were astonished that he was speaking with a woman, but no one said, “What do you want?” or, “Why are you speaking with her?” 28 Then the woman left her water jar and went back to the city. She said to the people, 29 “Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?” 30 They left the city and were on their way to him.

31 Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, “Rabbi, eat something.” 32 But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” 33 So the disciples said to one another, “Surely no one has brought him something to eat?” 34 Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work. 35 Do you not say, ‘Four months more, then comes the harvest’? But I tell you, look around you, and see how the fields are ripe for harvesting. 36 The reaper is already receiving wages and is gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. 37 For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ 38 I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.”

39 Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I have ever done.” 40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days. 41 And many more believed because of his word. 42 They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the Savior of the world.”

The past few months I have come across several amazing passages of scripture that defy logic and common sense. I’m not talking about miraculous healing or stories of Jesus bending the laws of nature. What I found were stories of people going from sinner to saint in a moment. Well, that might be a little bit of an overstatement, but I do see them going from sinner to evangelist in a moment. Instantaneous transformation without years of schooling, mentoring, book reading, or church attendance. Even in the most contemporary religious settings, this goes against much of what we believe and how we function.

Last year, I was presented with a challenge. To us, baptism is a sign of invitation into God’s kingdom and His Church via our own local congregation. We don’t believe that water saves you from anything, spiritually speaking. Instead of an end, we view it as a beginning of a lifelong journey following Jesus with the hope the person will eventually mature into their calling – whatever that might be. When we baptize children, we usually hope to have 10 to 20 years to help them mature into that role. The challenge I faced last year was baptizing a young lady who would be moving out of the country in 2 weeks, to a place where churches were not prevalent or even legal in some cases. She was going from new believer to missionary and I only had a couple of weeks to prepare her. Where do I even start?

That is the dilemma that Jesus was talking to His disciples about here. They wanted to wait until they had graduated disciple-making school to go out and start the work of disciple makers… but Jesus explained that there was no time for that. Even while they were planting seeds here and there, diligently and strategically trying to bring about fruit for God, Jesus pointed out that there was already fruit in the field that someone else had planted. Who could have planted it? Who else could have come before Jesus and put people on the road to salvation?

God.

God is always working ahead of us, often doing the very work that He is calling us to do. Sometimes we get too caught up in wanting God to use us that we forget that He doesn’t need us for anything. He loves us, yes, but not for what we do. He can save this world without us. The whole motivation for calling us to follow Him is because He wants us to be with Him.

This Samaritan woman, along with the demon possessed man of the Gerasenes, and Zaccheus the tax collector were making disciples of Jesus before Peter and the twelve really got to work. They didn’t have the benefit of spending all the time listening to and learning from Jesus like the twelve disciples. They just took what little they knew and shared it obediently. They didn’t concern themselves with the season and the strategy of what everyone else around them was doing. Their focus was fixed on Jesus. Because of their faith, Jesus worked with them and changed the world around them.

What has God done that has changed your life?

How can you respond to that intervention with gratitude and obedience?

Holy

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In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lofty; and the hem of his robe filled the temple. Seraphs were in attendance above him; each had six wings: with two they covered their faces, and with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew. And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.” The pivots on the thresholds shook at the voices of those who called, and the house filled with smoke. And I said: “Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” Then one of the seraphs flew to me, holding a live coal that had been taken from the altar with a pair of tongs. The seraph touched my mouth with it and said: “Now that this has touched your lips, your guilt has departed and your sin is blotted out.” Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I; send me!” And he said, “Go and say to this people: ‘Keep listening, but do not comprehend; keep looking, but do not understand.’ Make the mind of this people dull, and stop their ears, and shut their eyes, so that they may not look with their eyes, and listen with their ears, and comprehend with their minds, and turn and be healed.” Then I said, “How long, O Lord?” And he said: “Until cities lie waste without inhabitant, and houses without people, and the land is utterly desolate; until the Lord sends everyone far away, and vast is the emptiness in the midst of the land. Even if a tenth part remain in it, it will be burned again, like a terebinth or an oak whose stump remains standing when it is felled.” The holy seed is its stump. Isaiah 6:1-13 (NRSV)

You might not believe me, particularly if you have read through any of the census records in the Old Testament books recording the tribes of Israel, but in general, the Hebrew language does not waste words. In the Hebrew scriptures, if something is repeated, it is done so on purpose… typically for emphasis. When Isaiah writes that the angels around God’s throne say, “holy, holy, holy”, it should be translated in English as “Holy, HOLY, HOLY!” or, at the very least, “the Most Holy of All!”.

Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin may have been the first men on the moon, but over 2500 years earlier, Isaiah stood face to face with the source of life so powerful it makes the sun itself look like a lightbulb hanging in the sky. God’s holiness overwhelmed him. He understood in a moment how very small his own life was. Isaiah could feel how unworthy and unable he was to serve God, but he was more than willing to try.

There are varying concepts of this “worthiness” to be found all over, but only God’s worthiness reaches out and makes us worthy as well. Only in Christ can the filthy become clean and the sick made well. Why? Because God is the source of all life.

That is the mystery of Christmas. We can criticize the virgin birth and details of the gospel accounts (although not by much) but what the witnesses of 2000 years ago are truly proclaiming is that the holiness that Isaiah witnessed is the same thing that Mary carried in her womb and gave birth to in Bethlehem. The source of all life in the universe became a baby.

This passage ends with the mystery of Advent – our time of waiting for Christ’s return, even as we prepare to celebrate his first entry into our world. It is the mystery of the holy seed found in the stump. The stump is the tombstone of the tree… there is no life in it. It is the seed of the tree, found in the fruit, and much smaller that typically brings new life. But God, in His Holiness, chose the tomb to be the source of new life – perhaps gazing down through the ages to an empty tomb that would change the world forever. The Holy seed is found in that very place that it appears life has abandoned.

  • Where do you experience the holiness of God?
  • How does that holiness make you feel?
  • Where is God sending you to carry that holiness?

O Holy night, the stars are brightly shining

It is the night of our dear Savior’s birth

Wednesday December 7, 2016

Water, Wine, and Partisan Politics

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Water, Wine, and Partisan Politics

The first miracle in John’s gospel has always been a bit mysterious to me. Alcohol in and of itself has political influence, economonic influence, psychological and sometimes even spiritual influence in our lives. When alcohol is mentioned, particularly in many societies today, it is difficult to parse through the lens of our current context and return to a time where it frankly was not such a big deal.

For example, deaths due to intoxication while driving did not occur in Jesus day. There were no motorized vehicles, and most people just walked from place to place. The alcohol made was not as strong nor did it come in as many varieties as we have today. While it certainly still had some addictive properties to it, it was simply not as available to the common person as it is today. It was essentially a luxury item.

That is important to understand in this passage. Jesus is not setting up a brewery or distillery here. He is providing a luxury item for a wedding celebration that, while it was a common experience, it was not an everyday experience. It was probably not even a monthly experience. There is an incredible articulation of balance here as John unashamedly describes this story of Jesus using miraculous power to transform water into wine.

On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” (The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). (Jn 2:1–5). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.)

It begins with Jesus (and his disciples) at this wedding celebrating with his mother. I fully expect they were drinking – not because John says so anywhere, but, as stated above, alcohol simply was not the social issue then that it is today. More importantly, hospitality was a major issue. To refuse the hospitality of the host, regardless of personal issues was a major social insult in this society that had no concept of diets, allergies, or personal preferences regarding food and drink. In the middle east, you were simply grateful to be offered anything, and in a Jewish household, nothing would have been suspect. Furthermore, Jesus is accused by the Pharisees as being one who hangs out with drunks throughout His ministry, so there is no reason to claim this as the one time Jesus celebrated with alcohol.

For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds.” (The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). (Mt 11:18–19). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.)

Even so, Jesus does not initiate this miracle nor draw undue attention to Himself by it. It almost makes me wonder if Jesus had to pick seven miracles to record, if this one would have even been considered, let alone included as the first. His own statement comes as the question to which all the miracles stand as a testimony, “What does this have to do with me?”. That is the question we all must find an answer to if we are to understand this miracle. He knew His time of drawing the attention of the whole middle eastern world had not yet arrived, so He kept this particular miracle as quiet as possible.

Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. And he said to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.” So they took it. When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.” (The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). (Jn 2:6–10). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.)

Six stone jars were set aside for the ritual purification by washing. This ritual washing is very closely tied to the ritual baths practiced by the Essenes and the baptisms done in the Jordan River, so these jars tell us two things about this household. First, this is a Jewish household that is trying to maintain a level of spiritual purity (perhaps inspired by the nearness of the Passover celebration). On the other hand though, ritual washing was supposed to be done by “living” or running water, not to be stored in jars. While this water was probably not especially dirty water, it was not drinking water, nor was it even truly appropriate for the use of ritual washing. (Keener, C. S. (2012). The Gospel of John: A Commentary & 2 (Vol. 1, p. 510). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.)

The transformation of this substandard water, in substandard vessels, and its transformation into wine – a luxury item of celebration makes a significant spiritual statement. The concern and practice for ritual purity is at once exceeded and redirected to celebration. It is like a sneak preview of the ministry of Christ that is to come. Yes, baptism is a wonderful thing, but it is just the beginning. For these Jews, who were so concerned with being ritually cleansed, particularly for the holy celebrations, Jesus invites them to take in and drink the very water that was meant to cleanse the inside. As far as I am aware, it is an unspoken rule that you do not drink the baptism water. You certainly do not serve it at a party. Yet that was precisely what Jesus was asking this servant to do.

When it was dipped out though, it was not water, pure or otherwise, it was wine… and not just any wine. The master of the feast proclaimed it as the good wine, or the wine that was to be served first while the guests still cared about taste. John takes the ritual of purification and turns it into a joyful celebration.

The idea of political purification today is ripe with racial, ethnic, and cultural sentiments that all to often lead to hatred, violence, and suffering on a mass scale. This miracle did not mark a line drawn in the sand between those who were friends and enemies of God. Quite the opposite. It marked a union of two becoming one, and on that day, in that celebration, the very ritual tools made to separate became intruments to celebrate a union. Put another way, Jesus used the concept of baptism (setting apart) to celebrate a marriage (coming together) in one move.

What are the instruments of our political separation? We have colors and mascots that represent political parties, whose existence may be the greatest instruments of separation we have. In many cases, when asked about my political beliefs, I am not asked about particular issues. I am simply asked which party I support. How can Christ take these instruments of separation and transform them into a celebration of union?

spiritus asper

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valor colored moments in patient days

lean into the wind just to feel its breath

to hear their name sung by the prairie grass

in the Rollingda Bultryple – my heart’s meter

drumming up from the dirt that coats my bones

 

there is another side I cannot see

facing out-taken fragments of mortar and pestle

crushed memories, congealed in tears

and painted like salve to balm my regret

off-white and sterile, dimmer and clean

 

perversely palatable these winnowless spaces

which pull on the edges of cheekbones and lips

turning backwards against their internal setting

until vigilance snaps with a rack-shatter clatter

and diligence stretches the joints out of keep

 

where is the storm to send what is the matter

at hand four beforehand and afterward never

when it’s time to fall back to the spring of complacency

comatose solitude frozen insensitive

bulwarks to blame for the faith of the enemy

 

lessen the teaching of carpeted clamor

when fire resounding is what my heart dreams

and fills my grip over with precipitation

that flashes with wonder and coddles the rage

against white-washed solutions and desolate gain

 

loosen the fount of Chimaera’s gullet

buttress the bridges that bide in between

the time to rush forward in anticipation

the time to crawl under the plunging debris

to the solace of six spaceless moments of motion

 

oh bring me that wind to blow through my bones

and peel the layers of paint worn and past

from the top of my head to the tip of my chin

and down to my toes where the cleaners crawl through

and make me anew

and make me anew