Saturday, February 25, 2012

Homily 36: The Other Coming (as preached by an orthodox rebel)

"...[we] wait for His Son from Heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus, who delivered us from the wrath to come." I Thess. 1:10

The Coming Christ

Christ will come again, and this is no mere delusion or escapism. Beyond the folds of time and the edges of creation, there is a glory prepared and preparing for us, a glory that will outstrip all of our imaginations and shatter all of our vanities.

We each are splintered shards of color, looking and longing for the prism from which we have been refracted and to which we can find the wholeness of light. It is light that is coming, light inaccessible made manifest in the man called called Christ that He might finish what He started millennia ago: to destroy the works of the devil, the outer darkness and its gnashing teeth, banished to the fringes beyond thought by the onset of living light, which it still cannot overcome or comprehend. In this hope, we find patience and endurance everlasting (vs. 3).

The Coming Wrath

There is, however, another coming than that of glory. Beyond the light glorious, there is the fire dreadful. Out past the limits of space and time burns the furnace of the white hot fury of God's wrath. Wrath against darkness. Wrath against sin. Wrath against death. Wrath against all that is fallen, whether worlds or stars or souls. It is no sudden or random wrath; it is deep-seated and long-brewing, for the earth is old with sin and death, and its stench is that of an open sore soured with much filth. There is a holy cauterization looming in the distance, gathering force and speed, until that day when the skies will crack with anger and burn as with the fires of dawn but now with a fire everspreading and unquenchable, whose satisfaction is not met until it receives the furthest farthing.

You who long for the glory of living light: do you give no thought to the wrath of ravenous light? A light that hates? Hates because it loves? Hates all dark because it loves all that is light? We who rejoice at the distant music of the spheres: do we not also hear the distant thunder of the hammers of God, forging the sword of His mouth, whereby the Maker will unmake all things? Do we not hear, and do we dare not have pity on those still undelivered, still lost in and doomed to die with the hated dark?

-Jon Vowell (c) 2012

Friday, February 10, 2012

Homily 35: You're Doing It Wrong (as preached by an orthodox rebel)

"Therefore, as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him.... See to it that no one takes you the rudiments of the world." Col. 2:6-8

As Christians, our Reality is Christ, not the world and its ideas and notions. We are a new creation, new creatures, new men and women, essentially different from all other people and people groups (II Cor. 5:17). The fundamental rules for our life and existence have changed; the mainspring is moving to a completely different time. We do not move to the world anymore: we are pulled by the gravity of another world and star. We are peculiar people indeed, extraterrestrial in the truest sense: this world is not our home.

Our apprehension and appreciation of this one truth (i.e., that we belong to a new world, a new reality, a new life) is constantly under assault in the day-to-day lives that we must live. The world that we wander through as aliens and strangers (I Pet. 2:11) is continually trying to entangle us in its particulars. I am not simply speaking of sin, though heaven knows that would be evil enough. Rather, I am including all the aspects of the world: its fads and fashions, hysterias and manias, creeds and dogmas, philosophies and principles, notions and instincts and assumptions, moralisms and political correctness, politics and passions, thoughts and wishes and desires, and even cares and concerns. The world runs its own course, fundamentally secular with tinges of misplaced mysticism, ignorant and devoid of the God who is, ringing out its own hollow note on its lonely sphere. And we too often dance to its tune.

Ought we to care for the poor? The diseased? The hurting? Absolutely, but ask yourself: why do you do these things? What is your motive and purpose? Is it some man-made utopic vision, born of this or that political philosophy? Is it some shallow sentimentalism of your own, fanned and fueled by this or that speaker or book or conference or rally? If so, then you are wrong; sincere, but wrong. We are Christians: born of God and built on Christ. What do we care for the utopias and visions and sentiments of this world? We care for the poor and diseased and hurting because we belong to a kingdom that is not of this world, a kingdom where poverty, disease, and suffering have not, do not, and will not exist. A kingdom whose God loves all men, not by any human philosophy or politic or standard of our own, but because He is love. A kingdom that is coming soon, whose Christ is the firstborn and forerunner, and we are the first-fruits and ambassadors. If your are serving the least of these for any other reason than the new reality to which you belong to by the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, the most intimate of communions, then you're doing it wrong.

Shall we fight for social justice? Of course, but we must fight it as Christians. Shall we involve ourselves in politics? Absolutely, but we must involve ourselves as Christians. Shall we engage the arts and culture, creating our own in the process? Naturally, but we must engage and create as Christians. We must make as Christians. Build as Christians. Fight as Christians. Eat, pray, and love as Christians. Live and die as Christians. In whatever our hands find to do, we do it with our might "as unto the Lord" (Col. 3:17), for our "affections," our innermost disposition and being, is set on things above, not on things of the earth (Col. 3:1-2). We are partakers and practitioners of this great secret: that the only way to be of any earthly good is to be heavenly-minded. We must never lose sight of the heavenly vision, to which we are bound and knit together by the love of God, the death and resurrection of Christ, and the seal of the Spirit. From that vision, that sight of the Empyrean Prime, we live and move and have our being. That is no abstract assertion; it is the truth of our very existence as the children of God. We belong to Christ, who is one with the Father (John 17:20-23; Col. 3:3). That is our reality, the very ground and footholds for our day-to-day walking and waking. Pray to God that His Spirit would make it more and more real to us in every corner of our lives. Amen.

-Jon Vowell (c) 2012

Friday, February 3, 2012

God is not a Democrat (an observation by an orthodox rebel)

"Love is not an attribute of God, it is God; whatever God is, love is. If your concept of love does not agree with justice, judgment, purity, and holiness, then your idea of love is wrong. It is not love you conceive of in your mind, but some vague infinite foolishness, all tears and softness and of infinite weakness." -Oswald Chambers

"Love loves unto purity. Love has ever in view the absolute loveliness of that which it beholds. Where loveliness is incomplete, and love cannot love its fill of loving, it spends itself to make more lovely, that it may love more.... Therefore all that is not beautiful in the beloved, all that comes between and is not of love's kind, must be destroyed. And our God is a consuming fire." -George MacDonald

Our society's long-standing shallow view of tolerance has produced a strong internal notion to accept ourselves and others "just the way we are". This is not necessarily a bad thing. Outer appearances should in no way be a litmus test for a person's dignity and value as a human being, and ofttimes what certain callous persons refer to as "flaws" in others are merely quirks that serve as facets to a person's unique and individual essence. Christian orthodoxy sets a standard for human worth that is simpler and yet higher than such paltry things as looks, education, status, class, race, gender, or even behavior. That standard is the imago dei, which we all meet simply by being born. It is God who determines are value, and no one else.

That being said, God's standard and our toleration are both double-edged swords. The latter is so, because it would have us believe that "who we are" (or who we make ourselves to be) is as good as it will get for us, and the idea that we should "love ourselves" means that we should just be satisfied with what we get. The former, however, knows no such satisfaction. Who we are is valuable, but who we are is not the end. We are what we are, but we are not what we ought. For there is another doctrine of Christian orthodoxy called the Fall, and if it says anything at all, it says that we are not who we ought to be. Herein lies the danger of our self-satisfaction: to be content with a categorically valuable and yet lesser state of being when there is a higher one available to us; and God is saying, "Friend, go up higher."

Judging people by our shallow personal standards is wrong, but not because people are ultimately "fine the way they are". Rather, it is wrong because (as stated before) we are not the judge of human value: God is. We "judge not" because we are not the judge; but (much to the chagrin of our postmodern society) there is a judge, and though He loves us for who we are (i.e., the imago dei) He also loves what we ought to be. There is an excellence of existence for which we were created for, an excellence that is nothing short of God Himself, for it is His glory that we have fallen short of (Rom. 3:23).

A democracy cannot stand excellence, and it is an unfortunate element of modern society (which worships at the altar of democracy) that we would rather view excellence with suspicion and tear it down to our level than aspire and try to ascend to its. We sense that there is something intrinsically undemocratic about glory, about perfection, about holiness; but unfortunately for us, God is not a democrat. He is a King and a Father, and He will see His children be like Him. Not for His sake, but for ours, so that we may finally know the infinite satisfaction in being what we ought, of being like Him by knowing Him fully and absolutely and intimately forever and ever. That is life more abundant, and it is available to everyone born in the imago dei. God's hand is stretched down towards us all. It is a human hand, riven and strong; and know this: it is only our self-centered, democratically fueled sentiments that claim no higher standard than their own private one, it is only our shallow toleration of our self, that will make us spit at the grace of God.

-Jon Vowell (c) 2012