Crossing the Reed Sea to Freedom

            The story of the exodus and the crossing of the Reed Sea is one of the salvation stories of the Old Testament. It follows hard on the heels of the day of the Passover and it continues the story of the plagues. This whole story is told as a contest between YHWH and Pharaoh, with the question of who has the right story about who controls life.

When YWHW first introduced himself to Moses, Moses wanted to know who he was and YHWH’s answer was, “I am or I will be”, and the way you will know who I am is when the slaves are freed. Pharaoh asked the same question when Moses went and told him to let the people go, but with a bit of a different twist. Pharaoh puts it this way, “Who is YHWH that I should let the people go?” The answer is the same both for Moses and Pharaoh. They will know who YHWH is when the slaves are brought to freedom and have fully left Egypt.

            The story that I want us to look at here is what happened the day after the first Passover. On the night of the first Passover, Pharaoh and his people all lost their first born son because they refused to celebrate the Passover. If this seems harsh, we need to remember that at the very beginning of this story Pharaoh was the one who wanted to have all the Israelites male babies killed because he feared that some day they would leave and then who would do the work? Pharaoh’s wanting to kill the babies leads directly to his son being killed (eye for an eye).

            On the Passover when the first born died, Pharaoh kicks the Israelite slaves out of Egypt. He wants them gone because they are too expensive to keep. So they leave and the goal is the promised land of Palestine to fulfill what was promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. However, God did not lead them in the shortest way. There is a route that runs along the north of Egypt and it does not take long even to walk it. However, YHWH leads them to the south and the whole journey takes 40 years instead of a week or two. There is lots to learn in the desert. Exodus 13:17 tells us that one reason was that if Israel faced a battle the people would all want to go back to Egypt. We know that Egypt was a major force at this time and had a number of forts along the northern route.

            The story tells us that God led them by a cloud during the day and a pillar of fire during the night. Between Egypt and the desert where YHWH first spoke to Moses was a marshy area, known as the Reed Sea. I think most Bibles use the term Red Sea but then have a footnote that says Reed Sea. What I understand happened is that Israel is led by God around this marshy area and when Pharaoh hears of where they are going, he thinks they are trapped. When the slaves leave Egypt, its economy grinds to a stop and Pharaoh cannot imagine a new way of doing things. It is the same with us, when we come to a new situation we normally want to go back to what was instead of imagining something new. So who is Pharaoh and what is his world view? 

            We need to remember that one of the reasons given to Pharaoh to let the people go was that they needed to go into the desert and worship YHWH there. For Pharaoh this was a problem not only that the people would have to take off time from their work. That was a problem in itself because in Pharaoh’s view there were not enough goods to go around so he had slaves building cities to store his wealth. But there is another aspect that if we enter Pharaoh’s world will tell us a lot about him. In his world the common people do not go to the temple to worship. Worship and offerings were for the elite only in Pharaoh’s world. As someone has said:

Pharaoh can see no reason for everyone to be part of the worship of the Lord. As his ‘secular’ world is arranged–hierarchal, authoritarian, and totalitarian–so is his religious world. It is the religious leadership–in this instance the adult males–who must go and serve the Israelite God. The people should remain behind, enslaved, passive, and hope that the priests get the rituals right, and thereby insure the blessings of their God or Gods. https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/equal-before-god/

            Pharaoh saw himself at the top of the heap and therefore he saw no need to change anything. I think that is why when he thinks that his former slaves are now lost and in a place where he can catch them easily, he sets off to do so. Here is how I understand the scene: Israel has the marshy area to the east of them and on the other side is freedom, but how to get there is the problem. Pharaoh knows this and thinks here is my chance to get them back and then things will be just like they always were. So Pharaoh gets together his army of chariots and off he goes. In that time, chariots were the tanks of their day. It would be just like sending the tanks into Tiananmen Square. It would all be over in just a little while and those left would be more than happy to go back to being slaves. Both Pharaoh and the former slaves believe this. However, this story does not end that way.

            God in the cloud moves between the Israelites and the Egyptian army and he tells Moses to stretch out his staff and all that night a wind blows and in the morning the Sea of Reeds is divided into two. The Israelites can now cross over on dry ground which they do. However, when Pharaoh tries to do this something goes wrong with his chariots and the water comes back and Pharaoh loses his army there. Have you ever stopped to think about why this story is here? It really is a very strange story, but it comes up in a number of different places in the Bible. It may be a bit different but we should be able to see it. Maybe the first one that you will think of is Jesus crossing the Sea of Galilee asleep in the boat. His disciples are filled with fear that the storm will drown them. They wake Jesus up and he says, “Peace be still” and the water is calm. Once they have crossed, they meet this demon-filled man and when Jesus is in the process of casting them out, he asks the demons what their names are and they answer Legion. Then they enter a bunch of pigs and run into the sea and are drowned.  Legion is a military term. From there in both Mark and Luke we are told about Jesus feeding large groups of people in the desert and then going to a mountain and hearing God’s voice there. You can hear a number of more references to this story in the OT and the NT. But I think we need to talk about this story in light of what we know about Pharaoh and the meaning that it would have had to the people to whom it was written. I am indebted to Rikki Watts for starting my thinking along these lines.

            So first, who is Pharaoh and what did he think about himself? What did he understand about his world and his place in it? This is just like us; we act out what we understand about who we are and what our place is in this world. If you think you have no value and the world is a meaningless place you become hopeless, but if you believe there is meaning and hope we work to make this a better place.

One problem we have is that we cannot ask Pharaoh what he thought but his story is told in the temples and pyramids. Temples tell the story of the how their builders understood the world. So we have some idea how things worked during their time. So what do we know about Pharaoh?

            Let us look into his world.

This is a mask that was found in King Tu’s grave. It has both a Snake and vulture indicating that he ruled both lower and upper Egypt. So in the first scene when Moses throws down his staff and it becomes a snake, what do you think it symbolized?

In this image what you are seeing is how the Egyptians believed the world to function. The woman that you see stretch out across the picture is Nut. She serves the same purpose as the firmament in Genesis 1:6. Everyone understood that the world was flat, or better it was a disk, and Nut’s job was to keep out the water from which the world was made. If the water from above and below came together the world would turn into chaos again. Each figure on the above picture is a god of some kind and the chief of them is Ra the sun god. He rules in the sky and Pharaoh rules for him on the earth. In this picture you see the sun sailing across the sky in a boat during the day and then at night he travels through Nut to start the next day. Underneath is the writing that explains what the picture means.

Egypt had a number of different stories about how the world worked and the next picture shows a clear image of the water above Nut. In this one, we see Ra crossing over Nut in a boat but this time he is going through the water of chaos above Nut. I think that is how the sun got back to the east to start its journey back to the west. In others images we see the sun going back to the east under the world and there fights the snake. Pharaoh represented the sun god Ra on the earth. So as things went in heaven, so things went on the earth or the other way around. You can see the stars on the body of Nut as well. It is how they saw and understood their world. What other people groups thought that set them apart from the story of the Bible was that there was a god for each area of creation while the Bible has a God who creates everything outside of himself.

The next picture I want to look at is one of Ra travelling through the under world and fighting the snake each night. If Ra won the fight, then the sun would rise out of the Reed Sea in the morning but if the sun did not shine then that meant that the snake had won for the time being. The snake represented chaos and if he won that might mean that the waters above Nut and the waters from under the world would join forces and all of creation might be undone.

The problem of a flat world was always how the sun got back to the east. So my understanding is that during the time of Moses, Ra travelled under the world every night to rise in the east. Remember what was to the east? It was the Reed Sea.

            Now if we look at an Egyptian temple of that time it fills us in with the last details of Pharaoh’s worldview. The temples are long and narrow just like the Nile River, but they generally face east to west, because the sun rises in the east. Someplace on the east side is a man made water pond. It was used by the priests to wash themselves but it also probably represented the Reed Sea from which the sun rose in the morning. When you enter the temple there is a ramp which shows that the Egyptians believe that the earth rose up out of the water like a pyramid. When you enter the temple proper you come to a bunch of pillars and on those are craved reeds, again showing the importance of the Reed Sea. As you go into the temple you will come to where the image of the god is placed.

            Worship was for the priests and the rulers and not the common people. While Pharaoh might not spend much time in the temple everything was done with him in mind because he was seen as the sun god Ra’s image on earth. So Pharaoh was worshipped and thought to be a god while he was alive. While as Christians we believe that creation started at some point in past time, for the Egyptians creation happened everyday after Ra has travelled in his boat through the underworld, defeated the Serpent of chaos and then rose from the Reed Sea to start the new day. So in some way Pharaoh was seen as taking part in this, because he and Ra were so closely connected. So what does this have to do with our story of exodus?

            In the morning when Pharaoh sees that the Reed sea is divided just as the sun is coming up, what do you think is going through his mind? This is his story, the one that he has told and heard and seen on the walls of his temples. What does he do? He sends his chariots into the divided sea to find out very quickly that he has the wrong story. It is YHWH who divides the waters and not Ra or Pharaoh.

            So what is there for us in this story? Or maybe I should say who are we? First if we want to understand our Bible well, we need to know it’s cultural context and if we don’t, we will misread it to people’s harm. Our story is that we, all of us humans are made equally in God’s image and as such we are all equal, men, women, all of us, or as Paul says in Gal. 3:28 “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” (Gal. 3:28 NRS). And in Eph 2:14 we read that ‘the wall that divides is broken down’, this is the wall in the temple that kept out women and non Jews.

            However in the book of Exodus we read about slavery, so what gives? When we understand slavery the way it was described in Egypt and compare it to how the Israelites were to treat their slaves there is a huge difference. In the Bible if your slave is unhappy they could go free. We need to see the projection of where the story goes because by the time of the NT, your slave is your brother or sister and must be treated as a sister or brother and not as a slave. The story of the Bible moves to greater and greater freedom and we need to keep moving in the same direction because the story does not end.

            I think that we, as the image of God, need to be in the same business as God. God is in the business of setting people free, not just from sin but from the things that enslave them. The story of the exodus is the one of the best examples that we have of this. I think we need to be about breaking down walls or parting the sea so people can be freed, no matter if they are on the US/Mexico border or between Israel and the Palestinians. In Canada we have our own issues that need to be dealt with. In order to do this, we need to listen to people’s stories, not to be able to give them advice because then we are not listening but to really understand. It is the way to enter into people’s lives, and that is what God does, he entered into this story. He heard their groaning and then he was there in all of the ins and outs, and lots of time the ins and outs were very ugly. God is for giving full freedom to those who do not have it, like the minorities, women, and other oppressed people. As Christians, too many times we lose our calling to set people free and turn to building walls, not just of steel and cement but economic structures, which fuel racism and war. The strong want to have the controlling story, but God calls us to live out a different story. For those of us who claim to follow God’s story, we need to enter into the parting the sea and breaking down walls by living out what Micah calls for 6:8

             “O people, the LORD has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” (NLT)

The closer our world moves to war the more important it is that we break walls and part the waters of oppression.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Death brings life!!

Isa 11:1 says, “Out of the stump of David’s family will grow a shoot– yes, a new Branch bearing fruit from the old root. 2 And the Spirit of the LORD will rest on him– the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.” ( NLT)
Isaiah is speaking about the stump that is left after the tree is cut down sending out fresh shoots that will bring new life. The tree is a reference to David’s line of kings who ruled for 400 years and then lost the right to rule and went into exile. But as we know, some trees when they are cut down send out fresh shoots and keep growing. Others rot and become food for other life forms.
Spring is a good time to think about this as new life starts again. And seeing that it is almost Easter, we are again reminded that the tree of which Isa 11:1 speaks is fulfilled by Jesus. But Jesus too dies and everything waits for Easter Sunday when Mary comes to the tomb and finds what she thinks is the gardener bringing new life and creation to our world.

A Cotton Wood tree cut down last year and now it is putting out shoots with new grow.

These stumps have no new life in them. They must wait to rot so other things will grow.

These stumps have rotten enough so that other plants are growing because of the food found in them.

This stump is providing food for lots of other plants

Unless a seed falls into the ground and dies it will not bring new life.

The first bud is out saying that new life is coming.

What does Jesus’ Death and Resurrection mean to you?

When you put a seed into the ground, it doesn’t grow into a plant unless it dies first. And what you put in the ground is not the plant that will grow, but only a bare seed of wheat or whatever you are planting. (1 Cor. 15:36-37 NLT)

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

De la muerte viene una nueva vida.

Un árbol que fue cortado el año pasado y este año está empezando a lanzar nuevos brotes.

Isa 11: 1 dice: “Del tocón de la familia de David crecerá un brote; sí, una nueva Rama que da fruto de la vieja raíz. 2 Y el Espíritu del SEÑOR descansará sobre él: el Espíritu de sabiduría y entendimiento, el Espíritu de consejo y poder, el Espíritu de conocimiento y el temor del Señor ”. (NTV)
Isaias está hablando sobre el tocón que queda después de que se corte el árbol y envía nuevos brotes que traerán nueva vida. El árbol es una referencia a la línea de reyes de David que gobernó durante 400 años y luego perdió el derecho a gobernar y luego se exilió. Pero como sabemos, algunos árboles cuando se talan envían brotes nuevos y siguen creciendo. Otros se pudren y vienen alimentos para otras formas de vida.
La primavera es un buen momento para pensar en esto, ya que la nueva vida comienza de nuevo. Y al ver que casi es Pascua, recordamos nuevamente que el árbol del que habla Isa 11: 1 está cumplido por Jesús, pero Jesús también muere y todo espera el domingo de Pascua cuando María viene a la tumba y encuentra lo que cree que es el jardinero. Trayendo nueva vida y creación a nuestro mundo.

Tocones viejos que aún no están dando nueva vida.

Estos tocones están bien podridos y dan vida a otras plantas.

Los primeros signos de vida en primavera son los primeros brotes.

El mejor tipo de nueva vida que podemos tener es la nueva vida que Jesús trajo a la Pascua con su resurrección.

Image | Posted on by | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Is The Caravan Undocumented, or Illegal

Are the Refuges Seeking Entry into the US legal or illegal?
Social media has been buzzing with all kinds of viewpoints on the caravan making its way through Mexico to the US. Once they are at the border, the gates are kept as tightly closed as legally possible. The major point is that these people are not welcome here. One of the ways that is expressed is by the word illegal. It tells us how they are viewed. It also meas that we will not extend our hands to them in welcome or to help them. When we call them illegal, it means that we are right and they have become the scapegoat. But if we do not call them illegal, then we can say seeking refuge in another country is a right. The caravan has been feed and cared for by many generous people along the way who see them as people in need. For us who call ourselves Christians, what should our response be? Do we call them illegal and refuse to help, or do we help them? Do we have examples of how Jesus would have responded?

making sandwiches

Making 1300 Sandwiches for the Caravan  as they travel through Hermosillo, they only stopped long enough to have bags of sandwiches passed  passed to them, no other breaks were allowed.

The argument of whether the caravan is legal or whether these people should be welcomed is not new to our time. It was an argument that Jesus had with the leadership of Israel. The question being asked was with whom could you eat. If you ate with someone, that meant you became one with them in some way.
So I want to see how this plays out in Jesus’ interaction with the leaders of Israel. We see this in how each treats the other when they are sitting at a table and it has much to teach us.
Jesus had been invited to eat with a Pharisee in Luke 8:36ff. The Pharisees were the ones who knew the Bible inside out. What set them off from the rest was that they thought they knew everything and therefore were unteachable.
This is something that we struggle with as Christians. I know the Bible and have made it my life goal to understand it well, but the minute I think I know exactly what God must do, I have lost it. It is in this context that one of the Pharisees invites Jesus to his table and house.
While Jesus is at the table, a woman comes in and, because he is reclining, his feet are available for her to anoint with very expensive perfume. While she is doing this, she is also washing his feet with her tears and then dries them with her hair. This is a very strange scene. When Simon the Pharisee sees what is happening, he says to himself, “If this man was a prophet, he would know what kind of a woman she really is.” And the implication is that Jesus should not let her touch him because of her social standing. She is someone who is not welcome; rather, if the Pharisee had his way, she would be turned away much like the people in the caravan are refused entry.
Jesus speaks to Simon the Pharisee and tells the story of two people who owe money to a certain man, showing that he knows exactly what is in Simon’s heart. One man owes enough that he can’t pay it back and the other man owes a whole lot more. Both are forgiven and when Jesus asks the question about who would love the man more when he forgave their debts, Simon says the man who owed more.
When this woman came to the table she received forgiveness, and she was forgiven a lot. She showed her love by the things she did for Jesus. She did everything that Simon the Pharisee didn’t do. She washed his feet, anointed, and kissed him. Those were all things that Simon should have done. It is almost like Simon had invited Jesus to his house to put him into his place. But that did not stop Jesus from reaching out to him. What Jesus did at the table was break all the rules. By breaking them he was setting a new social order. It is a order in which all are invited to the table. It is an order where those who need forgiveness, find it. It is an order where those who need healing, can find help for their needs, but it is also an order where those who think they are better than others and have no need of changing, find themselves demoted. We can read this story to say that the woman who was a nobody and on the outside, replaced Simon the Pharisee who was on the inside.
If you think of the way that the writers of the gospels tell the story of Jesus, what do we have? We have a story about Jesus, what he did and said. When you read the book of Luke, watch how many times Jesus is at a meal scene. Did you ever wonder why? I think because they best show what God’s kingdom is all about. At another meal in Luke 14:15, someone shouts “Blessed is anyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God.” That person has it right.
At the end of his life, Jesus left us with a meal that we are to reenact. He takes the bread on the table, breaks it and gives it to the disciples saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way he took the cup of wine and gives it to them saying, “Drink this; it is the new covenant of my shed blood for you.” At the end, Jesus gives himself to us at the table so that we might all gain. He invites us to come and be a part of a very different order. It is an order with no divisions between us.
The way that Jesus broke the table rules of his day is how we need to break those of our day. Jesus ate with everyone, from the social outcasts like the woman and the tax collectors to those who in the end worked to put him to death. We too must make room for the “other” at our table.
Are the people of the caravan illegal? I think that is not the issue. If Jesus was here in person, he would be opening the door and inviting them in to dine with him. Maybe that is what scares us. The woman who was on the outside replaced Simon who saw himself as being on the inside. Is it our fear that these people from another country will replace us? I think the danger is that if we do not open the door to them, that will happen. In God’s kingdom and new social order, those who are on the inside and want to keep others out will find themselves on the outside.

A link to read

https://sojo.net/articles/fear-not-faithful-response-those-seeking-asylum?fbclid=IwAR3Kpw9qOf88mxMNpU6I-RtjeTzGOcVS46Q02Jo8KdXXbZ9jSE-pxD1Dxp8

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Table

 

Have you ever noticed that at the end of a strenuous day, all you want to do is relax but what you need to do is eat? After a meal, sitting at the table, your life is restored. If you have young children, when they get tired and miserable, you know that food does wonders to how they feel. Without food, air, and water we die.
Eating and having a place at the table have an important role in the Bible. In the Lord’s prayer, we are told to ask for our daily bread and if you read further in Luke, you find that God wants to give us the good gifts of life. These are gifts that are meant to be shared and this can be done at a common table. Often God’s kingdom is described as a banquet which is open to all. Valentine Appetizers
It helps to know just a bit more of the importance of eating in the New Testament culture. The main meal might be no more than bread and wine, or maybe water, but the table was set in such a way that everyone knew their position in the house. In a Roman household, the master sat at the head of the table but if he had died, his wife or mother might take that place. Normally those who sat at the table were men, with the slaves sitting at the foot of the table. To be invited to move up in the table order meant that you were now in debt to the master in some way or you had done something for the master and were being repaid. Seeing how people were seated at the table told everything about the social order in that house. To be excluded from the table also spoke volumes. Many times these meals were served outside so everyone could see who was who. Uninvited guest might show up but they were outside the circle of belonging.2018_11_03_2037
In Luke 14:7 we find that the guests who were invited to a meal were looking for the best places because they wanted to move up the social ladder. As Fr. Jan Michael Joncas says, “They understood the table’s power to include or exclude, to create debts and obligations, to symbolize dominance and power. In short, they understood that to change dining habits was, quite literally, to change the world. For at table, everything that creates a world is present: economics, politics, the potential for rivalry and competition, bonds among friends, boundaries against enemies.” https://www.stthomas.edu/media/catholicstudies/center/habiger/misc/Joncas_spring2000.pdf

Jews, like the Romans and Greeks, had much the same structure around the table. The Jews, however, were more particular as to who they would share a table with. Only Jewish men would be there and they had to be in agreement with the theology of the head of the house. Jesus steps into this setting to eat at their tables, but Jesus is a rule breaker. A good example of this is when he fed the 5,000 because it was a mixed crowd, open to whoever wanted to be there, instead of men only.

When we look at some table stories in Luke ,we find a fuller expression of the kingdom of God which was already there in the Old Testament. In Isaiah 25:6-8 we read, “On this mountain the LORD Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine– the best of meats and the finest of wines. 7 On this mountain he will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations; 8 he will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign LORD will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove his people’s disgrace from all the earth. The LORD has spoken.” (NIV). This passage must be ringing in Luke’s mind as he writes his gospel. The Jews were looking forward to YHWH coming, eating with them, and setting everything right.

While life is more than bread, it is one of the symbols for life. So when we find Jesus sitting at the table, we should not be surprised that those who are eating with him often find renewed life.

We find the first true meal scene in Luke at 5:27ff. Jesus has just healed the man who was brought to him through the roof because he need physical help. Before Jesus heals the man, he tells him that his sins are forgiven. To prove that he has the power to forgive, he heals the man as well. It is into this context that we come to the story of Levi the tax collector whom Jesus calls to follow him. Levi responds by giving a great feast. At the table is a large group of other tax collectors and people of similar nature. This is the crowd that took everyone’s money and gave it to the hated Romans. It was their job but if you have lived in a place where the rule of law is made up as you go, you would know that tax collectors did better than they should have. So a good Jew would look down at them and not share a table with them. They were treated as “the other” with whom they would not associate. This is exactly what we find in verse 30 where we read the following: “But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law who belonged to their sect complained to his disciples, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?”” (Lk. 5:30 NIV). By breaking the rules and eating with them, Jesus had become one of “them.” Jesus was concerned with more than only the physical relationship with the tax collectors, but also with where they were at spiritually, just as he had been with the man who was lowered through the roof. But unlike the tax collectors who take Jesus’ freely-given forgiveness and healing, the Jewish leadership rejects him.

Jesus’ answer is straightforward as to why he eats and celebrates with everyone. When you are at a wedding feast, you eat. The arrival of God’s kingdom understood as a wedding, or a coronation of the king. It says the king is here and we need to celebrate.
If we go back to Luke 1:46ff we find Mary’s song calling for a great reversal, where those with authority would lose it and those who were at the bottom of the pile would be raised to the top. That is part of what we see happening in this meal setting. The outcasts are being called up to a better place at the table. The fact that Jesus as the coming king will sit at the table and eat with them changes everything.

For us, it says that we belong to him, the one who is willing to sit at our table and be part of our daily lives. But this also raises the question of who sits and is welcomed at our “table”? _MG_9430Do we welcome those who we see as “the other”, because of skin colour or where they are from? How will we relate to groups like the caravan which is now moving through Mexico? Are they “the other” or can we include them at our table?

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Thanksgiving

2018_08_25_1241

Who do we give thanks to?

We Canadians have just finished thanksgiving and the Americans will not have it for a while yet. Here are some of my thoughts about this day. There should be more to it than just eating turkey. Our thoughts should go to the Being to whom we give thanks.
What goes through your mind when you think of God? When I was in Bible school and took theology courses, God was defined by statements that start with Omni. God is always present, all knowing, all powerful, etc. These are all good statements but one is left wondering how do I work this out in everyday life. We are made in God’s image and we should be reflecting God’s character. We might try to reflect the Omni characters of God by being ever present and in everyone’s hair all the time, or all knowing and thinking we know best all the time, or all powerful and have no need of humility. When the church has tried do those things, it has not reflected God’s love and mercy to the world.
Here are three other ways that we can look at God which I hope will be more helpful: 1. God is seen as the creator of beauty, 2. God is seen as the God of order, and 3. God is generous beyond belief. When we reflect these characteristics we are doing our job as God’s image and it is a way of giving thanks to our creator.

1. I am thankful for God’s beauty.

When we look at creation it is hard not to see God’s beauty. I have a hard time driving from here to the next city and being on time because I take my camera. I have to stop and take pictures along the way. I loved the colours this fall. Did you see them? Or each night at this time of year, I look outside to see if the Northern Lights are out. What a beautiful place we have been given to live in.
Think of the universe and how vast it is. Light from the most distance object seen with the hubble telescope takes 13.2 billion years to travel to us. But the universe is expanding so we have no idea where those objects are now. Our universe is rather large, and within that vastness is a lot of beauty. It is full of colour and each galaxy has its unique pattern.

Go outside and look up! Find the Milky Way, the big d2018_10_17_1780ipper, or any of the other constellations and then say with the Psalmist,

The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display his craftsmanship. 2 Day after day they continue to speak; night after night they make him known. 3 They speak without a sound or word; their voice is never heard. 4 Yet their message has gone throughout the earth, and their words to all the world. God has made a home in the heavens for the sun. 5 It bursts forth like a radiant bridegroom after his wedding. It rejoices like a great athlete eager to run the race. 6 The sun rises at one end of the heavens and follows its course to the other end. Nothing can hide from its heat. (Ps. 19:1-6 NLT) .
How do we reflect God’s beauty? I think this is where the artists and the poets come in. The artist should reflect something of that beauty. I am not an artist but I try to capture some of the beauty I see around me and hopefully by doing that, I can share some of God’s beauty with others. People need to see us do things in a careful, well-thought-out way. When we work, we need to do it well so it becomes a work of beauty. 2018_10_07_1741
What about when we speak? Do we express ourselves in a kind and thoughtful way? Do we have gracious words that draw others to God? Are they like beautiful music to others? They should because of the God that we reflect. At this time gracious and kind words are in short supply coming from Christians. I hope that my life also reflects some of God’s beauty back to the people who I am in contact with. My prayer is that they may see something of God’s character in me by the way that I act.
I want to be able to use my imagination to find solutions to problems. I think our imagination is critical to how we live. When God created the universe he had to be able to see what it should look like in the end. When I start to build something, I need to be able to see how things fit together. The better I can see and understand how everything fits together, the more carefully I can plan and work ahead. We should have that same approach when we plan as a church. We need to use our imagination and try to see where we think God wants us to be in five or ten years and then plan how to get there.
The poets, like the artists, can see what should be and by their words and thoughts they help the rest of us move forward. We need those kinds of people who call us to action and we need to follow.

2. I am thankful that God is a God of order.

When we look at the grand narrative of the Bible, IMG_20181017_214704234we find that God brings order out of chaos. Before God starts to create in Gen 1, the world is already there but it is in disorder. Gen 1:1 reads, “in the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, 2 the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters.” (Gen. 1:1 NRS). In Hebrew the words are tohu abohu, empty and formless. When used together these two words mean chaos.
The creation story is bringing order and control to the mess of tohu abohu. It is what God does when he brings Israel out of Egypt through the desert, makes them into a nation and gives them the promised land. When we read the story of the exodus we find that the Israelites, although many, are slaves and totally helpless. Their lives are in chaos. The story of the exodus is where God brings order to them. The law that we read about in Exodus and Leviticus is given so that they can live in harmony with each other, with creation, and with Yahweh their creator.
The whole long story of Israel is this story told over and over again. They fall into chaos and God works to bring back order so they can function again. It is one of the things Jesus did on the cross. One of the great disorders of this world is death brought on by sin. Jesus’ death on the cross is where death itself is defeated. We look forward to the fact that death will not have the last word because of what Jesus has done.
Living in an ordered world allows us to do science because we can trust what we see. We can do history and dig in the ground and have some understanding of what we are finding. Because God is a God of order, he does not play tricks on us.
What about us? When we make promises, do we keep them? Can people trust us to have their best interests in mind? How do we reflect God in this area? To be a people of order does not mean that we must be rigid because there is another side to life.

3. I am thankful that God is generous beyond measure.

When we think about the vastness of the world and all the beauty that is in it, we should be able to understand that God is not stingy and doesn’t cut corners. Think of how long he put up with Israel in the Bible, and then think of how long he has put up with us.
One of the stories that shows us God’s generosity is the story of the two sons in Luke 15. At the time when Jesus told this story, one of the worst things that could happen to a person was to be shamed. So when the younger son comes to his father and says give me what will be mine when you die, his actions tell us that he has completely rejected and shamed his father. He wants him to die. What does the father do? He divides all of his wealth between his sons and gives it to them. This was unheard of, and then he watches as his youngest son goes away.
We know the story of this young son. He has come into wealth and blows through it as fast as he can. Lovers, wine, and song until everything is gone. In the end there is nothing left for him to do but to feed pigs. Image that – a Jewish boy feeding pigs and wishing he could share their food. This is about as low as you can get. One day while he is busy feeding the pigs and longing for their food, an idea comes to him. He will go back to his father, not to seek to be reinstated as a son, but to work for his father as a farmhand. His father was always fair with everyone who worked for him. He would at least pay him enough to live on. So he makes his way home.
Remember that the father had watched his son leave home. His culture said that he should disown that son. They said his son was dead. But that father never stopped watching and waiting. He had let his son go and now he was waiting for him to come back. Finally the day comes when he sees what looks like his son coming up the road. His head is hung low and his clothes are all in rags. What does the father do? He gathers up his robe and runs out to meet him. No father would do such a thing; first he was shamed when the son left and now he shames himself by running down the road. He throws his arms around his son, kisses him and throws a feast for him. The son didn’t even have time to get the words out that he had come home, not as a son, but as a worker. The father can only think, “My son was dead but now is alive again. I need to invite my friends and have a huge celebration.”
Meanwhile the older son is outside working for his father 2018_09_03_1476and when he hears what has happened, there is no way that he is going back into the house. After all, his brother had shamed everyone in the house and blown all his wealth on lovers, wine, and song. So now why was his father throwing this big celebration because his drunk brother was back looking for help? As the older brother, he had done everything right and where did that get him? What kind of father did he have anyway? So he rejected the generosity of his father because it was not fair. The father continues to extend that same generosity to the older brother and invites him to come and celebrate. But God, like the father’s generosity, defeats fairness.
The older brother is a good steward. He made sure everything was done right. Often when we want to do something and someone says that we should be good stewards, it implies that we will do nothing. What would happen if instead we said that we should be generous like God is? Would that change everything?
The place where we best see God’s generosity is at the last supper and everything it implies.IMG_20181017_213848213“When they were eating, Jesus took some bread and blessed it. Then he broke it in pieces and gave it to the disciples, saying, “Take this and eat it, for this is my body.” 27 And he took a cup of wine and gave thanks to God for it. He gave it to them and said, “Each of you drink from it, 28 for this is my blood, which confirms the covenant between God and his people. It is poured out as a sacrifice to forgive the sins of many.” (Matt. 26:26-28 NLT). He gave everything so that we might have life. He gave his life so that the rebellious younger son can have his life restored, but he also gave it for the older brother so that he too can rejoice in the generosity that God has for all of his creation.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Quantum Theory and Image of God

IMG_5029

Not everything is as we see it.

It has been a long time since I wrote anything here. So it is time to explore some ideas with you again. I have just finished reading a book by Robert Lanza called Beyond Biocentrism. It deals with how our understanding of the world around us has changed since quantum theory and relativity were formulated about a hundred years ago.

Some of the changes in our understanding are very hard to wrap our heads around. Logically they do not make sense. For example, the speed of light is the fastest thing we know travelling at 299 792 458 m/s. When it travels through a window it might slow down by a third and then once it is through and in your house, it is instantly back up to the same speed it had on the other side of the window. How does that work? Now think of this: when two interlinked photons are separated and fired down two separate fibre optic cables, we see something happen that is faster than the speed of light. When a mirror is put in one of the cables so that one photon has to change its direction, its twin seven miles away makes the same change. According to measurements, it changes direction at the same instant which means that information was passed between the two photons faster than the speed of light.

Or when photons are observed, they behave in a different way than when they are not. Light can be either a particle or a wave, and what the human observer is looking for will determine what she sees. For example, fire a photon at a board with two slits in it and watch what happens. It will go through one slit or the other, but if no one is watching it will go through both at the same time. How does this happen? I have no answer other than what Lanza says. He says that humans measuring and observing changes what we see.

What we look for changes what we find. There are many things that science cannot explain. Take the size of the universe; we, of course, do not know how big it really is but there are indications that it is infinite. We think the age of the universe is between 13-14 billion years calculated by how long light from the furthest objects that we can see has taken to arrive at our telescopes. This raises questions about the start of the universe; if by chance it is infinite, how can it have a start and if it did start with the big bang, what was there before that?

Or there is the question of time. We understand clock time where each and every day has just a bit over 24 hours in it. But we know that time is not the constant that we have always thought it to be. Quantum theory says that the faster something goes, the slower time goes and by the time we reach the speed of light, time has stopped. So when we measure the universe using the speed of light, what are we really measuring? (On a side note this might also explain why some people are always late).

You might and should ask what does this have to do with Christianity. I think it has much to say to us as Christians. It should give us a great deal of humility because we know so little about our world. I think God has given us the task to understand our world and we will be busy for a long time yet. When we come to people whose beliefs seem strange to us, we need to take a step back and try to understand their point of view before we judge. This is as true for the undocumented immigrants as for those who hold other spiritual practices. Understanding helps take away fear. I hear a lot of yelling surrounding the gun debate to the south of us but very little listening and trying to understand so very little progress is made. Too many people see the world as black and white, themselves as right, and everyone else as wrong. Quantum theory is relevant which means everything is in a relationship to everything else. We would do well to realize that we too are in a relationship to everything around us.

If we take Genesis chapters one and two seriously in what it teaches us about the meaning of being human, that will give us a direction in how to live in this world. In Gen 1:26-28 humans, both male and female, are made in God’s image. My understanding of this is that we are placed in this cosmos to work on God’s behalf here. We are to show what God’s character is like. What we do has an effect for better or worse and if we are to take the example of quantum theory, what we look for in life is often what we find. So why would we not look for those things in this world that allow all of us as humans to live together in peace?

In Gen 2:7 when God created the first human, he made him from the dust of the earth. Just in case we think too highly of ourselves, the Bible gives us another story where we are made from the same thing as all the rest of creation. We are a part of creation but at the same time God has given us the very important task of watching and caring for that creation. In that role what we do has long-lasting effects, from climate change to human relationships. We are given the exciting role of being part of creation but at the same time working to make it a better place for all as we reflect what God is like. In quantum theory, often what you look for is what you find. So one of the questions for us is what do we look for? Do we look to live like the image of God by which people will have a better understanding of God, or do we simply live like a lump of clay? Whatever we do, we need to remember we are made both with a high call and from very humble beginnings.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment