Friday, January 20, 2006

Entering Rest

This is what the LORD said to me: "Go and stand at the gate of the people, through which the kings of Judah go in and out; stand also at all the other gates of Jerusalem. Say to them, 'Hear the word of the LORD, O kings of Judah and all people of Judah and everyone living in Jerusalem who come through these gates. This is what the LORD says: Be careful not to carry a load on the Sabbath day or bring it through the gates of Jerusalem. Do not bring a load out of your houses or do any work on the Sabbath, but keep the Sabbath day holy, as I commanded your forefathers.

Jeremiah 17:11-22

The text above first sounds intruding; our initial reaction might be "What if I have business to do on the Sabbath. Should I just not do it then? And why the specifications on 'heavy loads'?" After listening to the text, many times over, I remembered Jesus saying, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light" (Matthew 11:28-29). In this light God's command for his people to rest is less fire and brimstone then it is a compassionate plea that his people not be burdened; "be careful not to carry a heavy load on the Sabbath day." When we carry heavy loads, when we burden our minds or hearts with pounds of stress we reject the light load of Jesus. Rather than heed Jesus' plea to lay down our burdens we turn inward, telling ourselves that we must accomplish "X" or we will be failures. This whole way of thinking is founded on human effort, human accomplishment, human progress.

In God's command for Israel to observe the Sabbath we hear him tell us to turn away from the grotesque spirit that drives us forward like clockwork. Again his command to Jerusalem is no different from Jesus' "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." The truth of the matter is that it is only his load that is light and his yoke that is easy.

The author of the book of Hebrews writes, " anyone who enters God's rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience" (Hebrews 4:10). The rest that Hebrews talks about is the very rest that we hear about in Jeremiah and Matthew, that of Sabbath rest. In Christ we have the ability to partake of that rest continually, rather than bracketing it off to a day, by realizing that only the Lord is sovereign and that the method of worldly accomplishment is counter to the cry of Christ, "all who are weary, and burdened and I will give you rest."

Thursday, January 19, 2006

True Belief

About the Holy Spirit Jesus said that “when he comes he will prove the world wrong about sin and […]: about sin because people do not believe in me” (John 16:8-10). It seems odd that Holy Spirit doesn’t convict the world of sin because, perhaps, the world lacks a moral compass. No. The Holy Spirit “proves the world wrong about sin […] because people do not believe in [him].” Though initially peculiar a deeper look at this passage, I feel, can reveal a theological vista. It is through belief that humans actually become moral beings; that is what the verse tells us.

Orthodoxy and orthopraxy are two words we don’t hear very often. Orthodoxy we might associate with a strict group of far-right moralists, but literally it simply means: right belief. Someone can have orthodox beliefs about a chair, for instance: it is for sitting in. Orthopraxy is the even lesser known word, it means: right action. The two words are intrinsically related. For instance it is only after a person has an orthodox view of a chair that the person can use the chair in accord with orthopraxy. Right belief and right action are related in this way, in a twirling dance, belief leading action.


As I watch the news I am stunned and saddened by some current events. We don’t have to focus on events like 9/11 or the multitude of natural disasters; events at home: a divorce in the family, or an infant death, speaks loudly enough. But there is also plenty of good too; with every natural disaster there seems to be a well-spring of human aid and money raised. But, more simply, we can witness everyday kindness in a car stopping for someone to cross the street, rather plainly just some going out of their way.

It seems to me as I meet new people and continue to develop other relationships that there are people who seem to either focus on the negativity or the good stuff. Some watch the news and see things like global warming, natural disasters, war, and famine. For them the world is a gloomy place lacking hope, deficient in future possibility. On the other hand there are people who believe the world is ‘just great’. They focus on things like: human progress, countries forgiving third-world debt, or the recent successes of a family member. Both types of people don’t have a right view of the world.

Right belief of the world, or an orthodox view of the world—in general terms—is acknowledging both the good and the bad, the sin and the saving power. Christian theology tells us that we are in tension between the “already” and the “not yet”. A Christian way of understanding the world sees the impending judgment of sin and the future of a new creation where there is no famine—where peace reigns and everyone rejoices in the love of their creator. Jesus says that the Kingdom of God is like a mustard seed, it starts out small but grows to the largest of plants. While Jesus has placed the seed of hope in the ground by dying and being raised again (the “already” mentioned above) the seed of his kingdom is still growing (the “not yet”).


It may sound odd but before belief was something you thought it was something you did. In the Middle Ages the word belief was actually two words: by + life; this way people knew what you believed by your life, belief was lived out belief, not lip-service belief.

So, if we live in a world with both sin and God’s saving power we must share Christ, through word and deed, because it is only after the humans acknowledge Jesus as the Lord that the seed of hope grows a new shoot reaching out. Admitting the struggle and sin is the only way to peace; having an orthodox view of the world is the first step to right action in it.