EASTER: HOPE

March 24 2018

EASTER: HOPE.

No, it’s not the noises in the
streets
which does not let us sleep.
It is the earthquake soon to come
that will shake the world
and put everything in its place.
Accompany us then on this vigil
and you will know what it is to
dream!
You will know how marvelous it is
to live threatened with Resurrection.
An excerpt of a poem by Julia Esquivel, published in the Presbyterian CONNECTION, Spring 2018.

You know how I always start a new blog? I type in the date, and then let the spirit take over, the SPIRIT, that mysterious force that defies description.

I read a lot. That helps. As a matter of fact I always have books on the go, especially last week when my Internet service and telephone were off: it was the CORD that was defect: the simplest of devices can stop access. Society take heed!

And I think.

What so preoccupies me these days are the words Jesus uttered in John 17, “I have given them your word – REDEEMED CREATION! – and the world has hated them, for they are not of this world any more than I am of this world.

Is that where the Spirit leads me?

This text is usually misinterpreted. People see in here that we do not belong to this world – abandoning Creation – that, as one hymn says it, “I am a stranger here, within a foreign land, my home is far away upon the golden strand”.

People forget that in this same prayer, (John 17: 15), Jesus mentions that “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one,” whom Jesus knows is really in charge today. Matthew 4: 8-9 clearly indicates that the world is dominated by the evil one. Here’s what the Gospel says, “The devil took Jesus to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. All this I will give you if you bow down and worship me.”

This is what Jesus refers to when he indicates that the world now is in the temporary possession of the devil. 1 John 5: 19 confirms this, “The whole world is in the power of the evil one.”

Last week I quoted two professors, one a Jew and one a Christian, both were convinced that God has left us. I concur. That vacuum is now filled by the Satan. Jesus, on the cross, quotes Psalm 22, “My God, my God, why have you left me?” Jesus there and always represents all of humanity. Today God is absent and Satan rules. In general “absence makes the heart grow fonder and makes love go stronger”.

We live in different times.

I believe that today evil has the upper hand. And because that is the case, we have to proclaim the radical exclusiveness of the hope that is in Christ. Because evil is so powerful, human beings are losing the capacity for faith in God. Faith no longer belongs to our times. Humans are not looking anymore, and so they cannot hear the Gospel anymore, also because the Gospel is hard to find.

By and large the church has lost the Gospel. Let’s face it: faith-communities placed Trump in the White House. Faith communities help elect Doug Ford as the leader of the Conservative Party in Ontario, and the likely next Premier there. Faith communities shouted to crucify Jesus. Of course we all need fellowship: yes, going to church has definite health benefits.

Still………..

Another reason that faith is hard to find is that people are content, they are too rich. Jesus repeatedly states that the wealthy, those who are rich (us), have already received their reward (Luke 6: 24). That is the crucial message of the Beatitudes, which concludes with the alarming, mind-boggling message: Seek first the Kingdom (Matthew 6: 33), which is perhaps the most overlooked text after John 3: 16, “Love creation!” Both comprise the heart of the Christian gospel: clinging to these two crucial commands is where the Christian life starts and ends. Then everything else will fall into place! But because these two texts are so controversial churches do not dare to prescribe them, because it means that we have to pursue a way of life in line with eternity, the New Creation to come.

In a society where the churches no longer know how to interpret the gospel, no longer know how to interpret the kingdom, no longer know how to interpret eternal life, no longer know what faith is all about, the creeds too lack total credibility.

For centuries the church has focused on the preaching of the Scriptures, on the will to be converted to the content of faith. That is no longer possible, both because folks today are no longer listening, and also because within the church they are experiencing an insoluble confusion over what precisely is the content of the faith: church people no longer know what exactly is meant by faith, even if we still know what we believe as individuals.

Actually the stakes are even higher: these same faith communities, by denying Climate Change, by believing that death is an escape from an evil earth, kill creation, and that means that, in essence, churches are killing God, the creator.

It is my contention that both faith and love no longer apply to modern society. People are too spoiled materially: heat at the flick of a finger, cool a matter of turning a knob, mobility at any speed, anywhere in the world in a matter of hours: sick of the winter, fly south.

With such riches available, faith no longer enters into the mix. Love? How can people love God, that is, love creation, when every one of their actions is fraught with infidelity to God’s cosmos? Only those who truly love Creation, have the capacity to love.

1 Corinthians 13 is one of the most famous chapters in the Bible. It concludes with the well-known words, “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these ls love.”

That has been true for many millennia, but now, in the End Times, this no longer is the case, because faith has become an empty boast, love has become so distorted that nothing meaningful remains, as love for creation – God – has disappeared, thus there only rests us HOPE.

The central question today is not whether a person believes or not, but whether he or she has HOPE or not.

Look what’s happening out there. More and more people are coming out – and I don’t mean sexually, that too. More and more people are speaking their mind and warn that we are at the cusp of climate disaster. It is knocking at the door and there’s not a blooming thing we can do to stop it: nature has its own rhythm, nature bats last, God has the final Word.

There has been an epochal shift: a global climate crisis is upon us. Pollution, the poison of pesticides, the exhaustion of natural resources, falling water tables, an ice-free North Pole, and growing social inequalities – these are all problems that can no longer be treated separately. The effects of global warming have a cumulative impact, and it is not a matter of a crisis that will “pass” before everything goes back to “normal.”

Our governments are totally incapable of dealing with the situation. Economic warfare obliges them to stick to the goal of irresponsible, even criminal, economic growth, whatever the cost. Remember Katrina? It is no surprise that people were so struck by the catastrophe in New Orleans. The response of the authorities – to abandon the poor whilst the rich were able to take shelter – is a symbol of the coming barbarism.

The same happened when Houston, Texas, was struck last year. Both New Orleans and Houston are in for a repeat performance. And what’s next? 2018 will top all other years disaster-wise: it already has so far.

So how then do I cope in these TIMES OF ABANDONMENT?

I pray a lot, and I run a lot. Three times each week: Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday from 4-5, regular as clock work, whether I feel like it or not.
I run for 34 minutes and 44 seconds, exactly 5 km on my treadmill, when the weather is unwelcome, which is about half the time. Now that I am a bit older, I prefer the indoors. After my run, I go to my stationary bike which is arm-leg synchronized, giving me the chance to exercise more than just my legs, and bike another 5 km, after which I employ another machine, where I push strenuously on the handlebars, while also stretching my legs to the full, a sort of a push-up machine. I do that 50 times. Basically these three different movements affect my entire body and take about an hour.

My exercise room also contains the larger part of my library. I love books, and I find it exhilarating to strain my body, to work up a solid sweat, to use every part of my physical being, amidst the gathered wisdom of the ages. It really makes true one of my favorite Latin saying, Mens Sana in Corpore Sano, a healthy mind in a healthy body.

I love Psalm 8. We often are too down on ourselves: yes, we are crowned with glory and honor, rulers of creation. That’s where Matthew 5: 48 comes in. Based on this text Bonhoeffer called himself an ANTHROPOS TELEIOS. Jesus urges us to be ‘teleios’ as he is teleios, wrongly translated as ‘perfect’. It really means ‘to be holistic’, since everything is connected to everything else: the New Creation is totally ‘holistic’.

Actually in these last days FAITH has become a truly simple affair. Dogmas mean nothing anymore. Denominations have become irrelevant. Creeds lack all credibility, sacraments have become empty rituals while church buildings are as empty as their rituals. People flock to astrology for answers to life’s big questions.

Why do people turn to aura reading and tarot cards? The church has already lost the love angle and the faith phenomenon, that’s why hope is the only aspect that, in the week before Easter, has retained validity.

The world as we know it, is rushing to the End, the TELOS. The cosmos – for which Jesus gave his life as fully outlined in John 3: 16 – is, as 2 Peter 3: 12 tells us, ready for a total garbage cleansing.
The ultimate hope is to be ANTHROPOI TELEIOI, people who openly live `the distant future` and are holistic in their living habits, ready at any time to enter THE PROMISED LAND, the New Garden of Eden.

THAT IS THE HOPE that Easter brings us.

No, it’s not the noises in the
streets
which does not let us sleep.
It is the earthquake soon to come
that will shake the world
and put everything in its place.
Accompany us then on this vigil
and you will know what it is to
dream!
You will know how marvelous it is
to live threatened with Resurrection.

Matthew 24, that terrible chapter also mentions earthquakes (perhaps referring to the super volcano in Yellowstone Park, now getting fired up). All these are signs of The Last Days: how totally marvelous it is to live threatened with RESURRECTION.

The threat is that, before we are resurrected to LIFE, we all have to pass through DEATH, the last enemy.
But today we can and must dream of the New Creation.
The church as an institute is finished. That too is a sign of the Last Days. We must be like Noah who, at great ridicule, built an ARK in the middle of the desert, so we too must totally reorient our lives to focus on the life to come, where LIFE TO THE FULL awaits us.

That is the message the church should preach. It has to be prophetic in the fullest sense and visualize the life to come and paint it in multi-colored facets and sceneries, the one more enchanting that the other because no pen, no painting, no video can even begin to grasp the glory that awaits those who now have that HOPE.

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