Friday, March 25, 2011

Capital Security

Today I was having a gyro near the Colorado capitol in downtown Denver, and a policeman all in black with “HOMELAND SECURITY” written across his chest in grayish white was wandering around our restaurant.  I didn’t think much of it until I realized he was carrying a little black box the size of a deck of cards that was ticking erratically.  My friend I was with said he was looking for something, investigating.  And I’m a little silly, but I didn’t think so, and I ignored it.  My friend, she has more experience than I do.  She was right.  A little later he explained to the owner - a round-headed short man with silver hair and kind eyes and an apron - that the radiation levels weren't high enough to be anything serious (a bomb like those in nightmares).

I suppose the owner was worried that there was something wrong with his shop, or that someone was plotting terror from one of his tables, and he hovered just behind the officer’s shoulders.  The all in black man was very calm, telling the man that his sensor had sounded an alarm as he drove by…  My friend asked people if they’d recently been though those out of control full body scanners at the airports.  Probably someone eating there must have had something medical done that day, said the man with the little black ticking box. And he didn’t ask all of us sitting there, but he also didn’t look like he was going away.  So the lady in the corner raised her hand half way and confessed to having had a PET scan that morning. And apologetically, "My doctor said I should be fine to go out." People look around kind of nervously. Some joke. Some are puzzled. Ms. Radiating wants to know if he really could sense her from all the way outside.  The officer (who was probably wearing a lead vest, himself) reassured the rest of us that we weren't in danger.  Then he shows the woman his Geiger counter (how frightening) to prove to her that yes, the numbers were quite high enough for him to have detected. 

The officer was DRIVING BY and his radiation detector picked up the woman's aftereffects of the PET scan. (I always wondered what our law enforcement actually did to try to keep dirty bombs from going off.)  Most likely following protocol, he reported the mildly increased radiation. The report went straight to Washington, DC. We're talking Pentagon and Homeland Security. Probably not Obama, since he has much more important things to worry about than nuclear scares at home and abroad.  The woman cooperatively provided the officer with her name and contact info in case anyone needed to follow up on his report and confirm that she wasn't a terrorist, just a patient in the tech-y US of A.
True story. 

To God be all glory.   

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Hebrews, Hearts, Bodies, and Manichaeanism

I was reading Hebrews today, and this verse:

Hebrews 10:22, "Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water."

made me think of something. 

I’m not going to even start to say I know exactly what it means.  But what it made me think of was Manichaeanism.  I know that most of my readers are very intelligent scholars who know terms for ancient heresies.  And if they’re not they are the independent learners who stopped to Google the word before reading another sentence.  And if they’re not, they’re wondering why I bothered using a word that my audience doesn’t know, and hoping that I mean to tell them more about it.  I do mean to.  That ancient heresy was related to Gnosticism, but specifically it taught that salvation came by escaping the flesh.  Flesh – body – material things, they were bad.  And yeah, if you want to know about it, I find Wikipedia an exciting source of information about theology.  (I’m not kidding!) 

The verse in Hebrews has to do with that in that it mentions our hearts sprinkled (by the blood of Christ, metaphorically) accomplishing spiritual purification: regeneration (Titus 3:5 anyone?) and forgiveness (1 John 1:9 - all these “clean” words).  But it doesn’t ONLY mention that spiritual thing; it mentions having our bodies washed.  And that’s weird.  The rest of the chapter and the one before it were talking about how under the Old Covenant things were sprinkled with mortal blood; that blood was a picture of Christ’s blood, and our things down here: temple, book, priest are pictures or shadows of the original things, the eternal things, the spiritual things.  (Things that are seen are temporal, but the unseen last – and last goes on and on because there is nothing coming after to displace it – I’ve been reading Pilgrim’s Progress, too.)  All of a sudden in verse 22 he says something not about sprinkling with blood, but about washing with pure water. 

Now, I’ve been doing a ton of thinking about baptism lately, and studying it too, and discussing it even, so my brain sort of goes that way when anything like baptism is mentioned.  I’m not going to say that the author of Hebrews was talking about baptism.  I don’t know if he was.  And I’m not going to say that baptism, the kind where you’re washed with water, saves you.  (This is because I don’t really believe that, even though, um, some parts of the Bible kind of say that baptism has to do with salvation, like Mark 16 and Acts 2.)  But if we keep with the flesh and earthly things being shadows of the eternal, like Hebrews is teaching, then salvation isn’t escape from the body.  Rather, we use our bodies to picture eternal spiritual realities.  And we make it real in the flesh. 

I liked this thought – and really for me it was only one quick thought because all the other things I added in for your sake had already been founded for me over the past few weeks – so I decided to share it.  And I know that it confused a bunch of you readers, so I’m sorry.  I can’t say that I totally get my thought anyway; it’s more like a door into lots of thoughts that, if you are ever in the same room with me, I’d be happy to discuss, especially if we are eating at the time.  I’m not a Manichaenist.  (How many syllables do you need in one name for a cult, anyway?)

To God be all glory.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Flowers Unseen

Why are there flowers on the tops of mountains?

No one sees them.  They grow and live and bloom and seed and die.

I can imagine why God would want to bless us with beauty by putting pretty things in our paths.  Did His beauty-bucket just spill?

How do we know there are flowers on some peaks?  Every once in a while an adventurer makes it to the top, and stands in a field of wild blooms.  He tells people.  He takes pictures.  And he never goes there again.  Seasons, generations of flowers, pass before anyone else catches their breath at the sight of them again.

Without those unseen seasons, that one moment would be impossible.

To God be all glory,
Lisa of Longbourn

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Word of God Part 2

Did God speak outside of Scripture?  Does He still?  Can we speak His (new) words? 

Speaking is a big focus of the New Testament, though I think we have overlooked it.  Many of the spiritual gifts have to do with verbal communication.  Are those gifts supernatural (spiritual) or not?  Can speaking gifts come from God, but not the words?  What about this verse from Peter?  “If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God…”  Have you ever thought about Paul’s admonition to take up the “sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God”?  Did you know that Paul follows with a request that his friends pray that “utterance may be given unto [him]”? 

Maybe you’re like me, fascinated by how casually the Old Testament refers to God speaking to men.  God spoke to Cain.  God told Noah.  God visited Abraham.  He interrogated Job.  Was it like in the movies, where light streamed from heaven and men heard a voice?  How often did men have experiences like Abraham, who entertained God and a couple of angels in his tent?  Was the voice audible or not?  Did God come in dreams like He did for Joseph, instructing him to go ahead with his marriage to Mary?  Why doesn’t the Bible go into more detail about these fantastic communications?  Why do the authors seem to think we know what they mean when they simply say, “God spoke”?  Did they expect us to have similar experiences?  Does God still speak? 

Did you know that the Bible never says anything about the end of the writing of Scripture?  Did you know there is no biblical instruction for determining a Canon? 

Catholics ascribe authority to the words of the Pope (when he is speaking as Pope).  That way they have one universal authority to which all members of the church must submit.  Protestants rejected the Pope because they observed the fruit of his edicts, in the sixteenth century and before, that they were worldly.  Perhaps they also claim that the New Testament does not teach apostolic succession or the spiritual authority of popes. 

But Protestants claim similar things about the Bible.  We use it as the universal and exclusive authority over the Church.  Now, the Bible does mention authority.  It says that men will live by the words of God, and I am fairly certain that the writings of the Bible fit into that category.  All Scripture, Paul wrote, is profitable for doctrine and rebuke and instruction in righteousness.  I’m willing to at least suggest that he had the Old Testament in mind. 

The problem is that the Bible itself also teaches about the Church, and who has authority over it.  What it says is that Jesus Christ is the head of the Church.  He is its authority, to which every member must submit. 

To God be all glory. 

What if Daniel had an Aching Back?

What if Daniel had an aching back?  I tend to forget that the characters in the Bible were normal human beings.  They had to eat.  Sitting and rising may have been sore activities for a man who’d lived as long and seen as much as Daniel.  By the time he was cast into the lion’s den, he was quite old.  This man saw miracles.  He prayed and interpreted dreams.  But what if his back ached?  What painful human experiences did he have to face?  What things did he pray for during his customary times of devotion, but that didn’t make it into the Bible?  Do we only see him in the answer-times, and forget the decades of patient petitioning?  Did he ask the questions David asked, faced with kings so powerful they practically ruled the world, kings who displayed their might, and wonder why the King of Kings did not come in awesome terror against His enemies?  The God of Abraham can produce a hand alone, writing words on the walls of Babylon, but He chooses to use the armies of the Medes and Persians to actually smite the wicked prince?  Running an empire is hard work, and for sometime Daniel was the king’s right hand man; what was that like?  Didn’t it wear him out?  Did he get frustrated?  Did he cry with friends for their sorrows? 

To God be all glory.