The Art and Science of God – Uncommon Sense

Standard

The Art and Science of God

Uncommon Sense

Luke 14:7-14

When he noticed how the guests chose the places of honor, he told them a parable. “When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not sit down at the place of honor, in case someone more distinguished than you has been invited by your host; and the host who invited both of you may come and say to you, ‘Give this person your place,’ and then in disgrace you would start to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and sit down at the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher’; then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at the table with you. For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

He said also to the one who had invited him, “When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, in case they may invite you in return, and you would be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

One of the greatest gifts Jesus gives us is his practical teaching and example of the illogical and mysterious values of God. What I mean is that Jesus personifies (and perhaps humanitizes) Who God is, and does so in such an exemplary way that we are invited and instructed how to personify God in our own lives as well. However, the kind of example He sets is not necessarily one that is either easy to understand or follow. Not only can it be physically and emotionally challenging, it is sometimes counter-intuitive and hard to wrap our minds around.

Kingdom hospitality is an easy example of how the logic of God does not always line up with our culture’s version of “common sense”. Common sense from a capitalist standpoint tells us to focus the bulk of our hospitality on those whom we can expect a better return. Wine and dine those who have money to buy from you, not those too poor to afford your products and services. That first step to recognizing the truth about our common sense is that it is based upon our politics and economics, not our relationship with God.

Let me give another example. In our culture of copyrights land lawsuits, if you were able to create a water purification system using basic household objects, would you hold a public forum teaching your neighbors and community how to do it themselves or with you patent it in attempt to make money off of your idea? Which does your common sense promote? The good of the community for the good of your pocketbook? Most of us would probably try to do both. We might see it as a wasted opportunity if we did not try to make money and we might feel guilty if we did not at least try to make an attempt to better the lives of those around us.

Common sense is a tool designed to lead us to success (however we understand and define success). It is also a very logical tool. Common sense, like much of our scientific tools, is based upon success we can see. I think, like much of science, it is actually a little more biased toward sense of vision than any of our other senses. It leads us to make choices that look successful not just sound successful, or smell successful, and in many cases it leads us away from choices that “feel” successful. When we make choices because “it felt like the right thing to do at the time”, our common sense often warns us otherwise.

This is why Jesus baffles us so much. Jesus does not take the middle road. He does not tell us to go and invite anyone and everyone to our parties. He tells us to leave our rich neighbors alone, and throw parties specifically for those who cannot, let alone will not repay us. That makes common sense sick to its stomach.

Ambition tells us to succeed we must climb higher. A modest Version of common sense would tell us to be patient and strategic in how we climb to gain the most success without alienating those allies around us. As usual Jesus takes a completely different approach. He tells us, if you want to succeed do not climb higher… climb lower. Take a demotion. Now our common sense is screaming.

Is there no logic to God’s ethics? Indeed there is, but it is not based in capitalism, and even more jarring, it is not based in what we can see. John’s ethics are based upon an invisible truth: that God Himself created the world, holds the world together, and that we can not find success in life that is not A gift from Him. With that kind of logic it makes sense that helping our poor neighbors pleases God and we can expect to be successful and happy simply because God is pleased with us. Our common sense lives in a place of doubt and skepticism, existing to watch our back, doubting that we will be happy or successful merely by pleasing God, and coming up with back up plans just in case God does not exist at all. After all, our common sense has not seen Him lately.

What we need is not just more common sense. We need a little more faith in God. Not just faith in general or faith in ourselves… but faith in God. Perhaps this is why the author of the Letter to the Hebrews wrote:

Hebrews 11:6

“And without faith it is impossible to please God, for whoever would approach him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.”

How does your common sense help you draw closer to God?

How does your common sense conflict with your faith at times?

Advertisements

Seeing is believing

Standard

Seeing is believing

A Third Time Jesus Foretells His Death and Resurrection1

They were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them; they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid. He took the twelve aside again and began to tell them what was to happen to him, saying, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death; then they will hand him over to the Gentiles; they will mock him, and spit upon him, and flog him, and kill him; and after three days he will rise again.”

“Behold!” He said.

It was not the first time Jesus had this discussion with them. At the beginning of their time following Him, Jesus had told them there would be a cross involved. They would suffer, as He would suffer. This was not the second time either. This was the third time He sat them down and explained what was going to happen in Jerusalem, and now it was almost too late to turn back. They had spent 3 years together trying to get to this place, and here they were in the home stretch. Jesus was preparing them for the big finale.

Yet somehow it took them all by surprise. Why was that?

As wild as our imaginations can be sometimes, they are all fairly limited to recycling material we have seen before. I find it oddly humorous to note the number of television episodes that are based on real life situations. We cannot invent enough new crimes for late night TV so we borrow from the local newspaper and spice it up a bit. Then someone watching that program is inspired to commit a crime of their own based on that, with a twist. They end up on the internet news the next day and the TV writers have new material to work with. It’s an endless cycle of rehashing the same old stories.

Even Disney got involved, not only reselling age old fairy tales, but remaking their own former versionsof them and marketing them as such. (I’m excited to see what Guy Ritchie will do with the Aladdin remake!)

All that to say, when it comes to imagining totally new things, we are not so good at it.

So when Jesus tried to explain that victory over sin and death would come from a cross and that new life for everyone would come when He was brutally executed… well, remember these people had never seen movie special effects. I’m sure they passed it off as something to be taken spiritually or philosophically, but not literally. I mean, even for those who actually saw it all happen, most could not even believe it then.

A few months ago I had the privilege of riding on an airplane during a thunderstorm. It was Incredible watching the lightening bounce from cloud to cloud, so high up in the air. It struck me then, like it must have struck the first astronauts about how few people in the history of the world had ever seen what I was witnessing right then and there. Seeing something as simple as lightening expanded my beliefs about what God can do. What about you?

What has Jesus told you that you may have to see to truly believe?

Can you walk with Him a little further today, even if you cannot see the big picture yet if where He is taking you?


  1. (See also: Mt 20:17–19; Lk 18:31–34)

Vision

Standard

The vision of Isaiah son of Amoz, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah. Hear, O heavens, and listen, O earth; for the Lord has spoken: I reared children and brought them up, but they have rebelled against me. The ox knows its owner, and the donkey its master’s crib; but Israel does not know, my people do not understand. Ah, sinful nation, people laden with iniquity, offspring who do evil, children who deal corruptly, who have forsaken the Lord, who have despised the Holy One of Israel, who are utterly estranged! Why do you seek further beatings? Why do you continue to rebel? The whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint. From the sole of the foot even to the head, there is no soundness in it, but bruises and sores and bleeding wounds; they have not been drained, or bound up, or softened with oil. Your country lies desolate, your cities are burned with fire; in your very presence aliens devour your land; it is desolate, as overthrown by foreigners. And daughter Zion is left like a booth in a vineyard, like a shelter in a cucumber field, like a besieged city. If the Lord of hosts had not left us a few survivors, we would have been like Sodom, and become like Gomorrah. Isaiah 1:1-9 (NRSV)

Vision is what allows us to perceive the world around us. Proverbs 29:18 says where there is no “vision”, the people perish (KJV). This is one of the times where our english language translates two different kinds of terms, revelation, and sight into the same term. It is not without reason. A person, or more specifically a group of people who have no revelation will stumble around like someone who has no physical vision.

Jesus, noted the same when he said ““The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!” (Matthew‬ ‭6:22-23‬ ‭NIV‬‬). Part of our vision is how we view ourselves, and if our view of ourselves if full of darkness, we will see darkness everywhere else as well.

This darkness is the state of the nation to which God sent Isaiah the prophet. The phrase of John Bradford “There, but for the grace of God, go I.” The nation was a mess, riots had broken out, cities were on fire, and it was on the verge of being taken over by foreignors. Isaiah told God’s people that they were rebelious, that their whole head was sick and their heart feint. They lacked soundness… and the only reason they had not suffered the punishment of Sodom and Gomorrah was that God’s grace still guarded them. I do not need to tell you that we are not much better. Your eyes probably see as much darkness as my own. Hear though three points of hope we have.

  1. The problem, as Isaiah states it, was not just bad behavior. It was that they did not know their master. That may be hard to swallow in a very politically divided context, but remember, the master of the people here was God Himself. God is the one these people had left, not their political and religious leaders.
  2. The solution was not just fixed behavior, but a new vision… a clearer, truer picture of who we are and what the world around us is. We cannot get this vision from a place of blindness, but in seeking healing and new vision, we can find new hope right where we are. God can reveal directions to a better tomorrow.
  3. Our hope is grounded firmly in God. It is He who holds back the consequences we are not facing, but may indeed be putting ourselves in the path of and may indeed deserve. From beginning to end, our Hope is in God and nothing else can compare. That is the true meaning of Advent and of Christmas.

How do you see the world today?

How do you see yourself?

How do you see God?

Open my eyes, that I may see

glimpses of truth thou hast for me;

place in my hands the wonderful key

that shall unclasp and set me free.

Silently now I wait for thee,

ready, my God, thy will to see.

Open my eyes, illumine me, Spirit divine!

Sunday November 27, 2016