Walking to the Temple

The Church When Jesus Returns

Members of one of the largest congregations in the Presbyterian Church (USA) have voted to leave the denomination, despite facing an $8.89 million cost for leaving.

“Surprisingly, there are many PC(USA)-ordained pastors who do not believe, for example, in the deity of Christ or in salvation through faith in Christ,” the rationale states, citing a 2011 PCUSA survey that suggested 41 percent agreed with the statement, “Only followers of Jesus Christ can be saved.”

-by Sarah Pulliam Bailey
“Citing Doctrinal Error, Presbyterian Megachurch Leaves Denomination” (3/6/2014)
CharismaNews.com

Lately, I’ve been pretty vocal about what I see as the enduring mistakes that have been made by “the Church” and perpetuated over the long centuries of Christian history. I’ve struggled with our religious arguments even while continuing to try to understand the nature of fundamentalism in Christianity.

I attend a small Baptist church in Meridian, Idaho and so my current experience with Christianity as a whole is strongly filtered through that lens. My only real previous experience in church as an adult (my parents took me to a Lutheran church when I was a child) was a rather large Nazarene church in Boise, however there was a gap of many years between these two events. I worshipped at the Nazarene church when I first became a Christian and I’m at a Baptist church now. For the many years in-between, I was exploring, learning, and worshiping within various aspects of Hebrew Roots and to some degree, a Messianic Judaism context.

So as you can see, my experiences with “Christianity” are rather limited. When I write about “the Church,” I’m really writing about my personal understanding of what I think Christianity is and what it means. Pastor Randy, the head Pastor at the church I attend, has spent no little time showing me how each of the denominations relate to one another and why he believes Fundamentalism is the most Biblically based and thus the most accurate and true way to worship God, spread the Gospel message, and obey the commands of Jesus.

But if you click on the link associated with the quote at the top of today’s “meditation,” you’ll see, as I did, a different side to what “Christianity” can mean. It never occurred to me that someone could be a Christian and not believe that salvation is through Jesus Christ.

Interesting. Whenever I hear someone say, “Jews believe”….or, “don’t believe….,” – last time I looked the Jewish people didn’t have a Pope.

-chaya1957
“In Its Time I Will Hasten Him”
Endtime Chaverim

While the Catholic church may have a Pope and other denominations of Christianity may have their heads or ruling bodies, I forget that “the Church” as an overarching, world-wide body has no central leadership. There is no Apostolic Council of Elders as in the days of James, Peter, and Paul, and “the Church,” unattached to a central head on earth, turns to Jesus Christ as Savior and King. After all, we’re called “Christians” as a reflection of who we follow.

But wait!

We are also called “Baptists,” or “Presbyterians,” or “Methodists,” or “Pentecostals,” or even “Hebrew Roots,” or followers of “Messianic Judaism.” We define ourselves as members of some subset of the believing whole and those subsets represent sometimes dramatic differences in who and what we think we are in Christ. And yet, at the core, part of what we’re also saying is that we are disciples of Jesus (or Yeshua if you prefer) as Lord and Savior, all of us.

Except that according to the above-quoted article, the Presbyterian Church (USA) (PCUSA), or at least some of its affiliate churches, may not believe in the deity of Christ, which is a rather startling point of separation for most Christians.

Church denominationsIt’s mind-boggling how “Christianity” or “the Church” can contain such wide variations of belief and yet still hold onto those labels or titles. Of course, Judaism, as Chaya1957 pointed out, has no central authority either, save for Hashem (individual branches of Judaism may follow the teachings of a Rebbe), and thus we find a great degree of variation in what constitutes a “Judaism” as well. This has given rise to the question about whether or not Messianic Judaism is a Judaism. A number of folks with whom I regularly communicate say that “yes,” Messianic Judaism is a Judaism first and foremost, which makes the people I know in Hebrew Roots and in “the Church” (as I experience it) kind of disturbed. From the latter group’s perspective, if one believes in Jesus (Yeshua) as Messiah, one is Christian or Messianic first, and Judaism must at least take a back seat if not actually get booted off the bus.

It gets a little dicey between Hebrew Roots and Christianity since the former adopts halakhic Jewish practices to one degree or another as a way of observing the mitzvot, while the Christians I currently associate with, by and large, believe that Judaism died as a valid expression of Messiah worship somewhere in Acts 2, to be replaced by “the Church” (big “C”) forever more.

Although Pastor Randy has accused me of disagreeing with just about everything he believes in, I find that my current church experience and my previous associations in Hebrew Roots have left me adhering closer to the Bible as the Word of God than I would say is true of PCUSA.

But I guess that depends on how you interpret the Bible, and thereby hangs a tale.

I’m particularly happy to embrace this label. Because, for me, “theologically shaky” means that we see the Bible not as an inerrant book that serves as a “text book” of the Christian faith, but rather as an amazingly diverse, complex, nuanced text that cannot interpret itself, but rather must be interpreted through a particular lens. For me, that lens is Christ as I have come to know him and understand him within my own relationship with God. The theologian James Alison (a Catholic!) points out that we always, ALWAYS read the Bible through a particular lens. And if we think we don’t, then we simply are failing to see the lens that we are using.

-Rev. Matthew Dutton-Gillett
Rector of Trinity Church in Menlo Park
from “Why I’m Fine Being ‘Ultra Liberal’ & ‘Theologically Shaky'”
Below the Surface

I agree with the good Reverend that we all read the Bible through a particular interpretive lens and that no one has direct, raw access to one-hundred percent of the information God is trying to transmit to humanity through the Bible. That said, and I agree with Pastor Randy on this, we have to establish some “ground rules,” so to speak, about what we can all agree the Bible is saying.

In response to that challenge, I committed myself to being a Gentile who studies the Bible through a Messianic Jewish lens.

That probably makes me an odder duck in my local Baptist church than even the most liberal Presbyterian, but I find that perspective brings into focus the Bible as a whole and unified document, rather than splitting the meaning of God’s Word and especially His intent toward Israel between the “Old” and “New Testaments”.

Did the practice of Jews and Gentiles becoming disciples of Jesus as the Messiah really start out as a single thing?

Now Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest, and asked for letters from him to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, both men and women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. (emph. mine)

Acts 9:1-2 (NASB)

The Jewish PaulThis is the first place I can find in the Bible that gives the organized body of Yeshua-followers a distinctive name. At that time, the movement was still fairly new and Jewish people still were the majority population. That would begin to change in the years that followed Paul’s “conversion” and then scores of non-Jews would rush in, occupying Jewish religious and community space and ultimately displacing both the Jewish people and Judaism (that covers a lot of history which I imagine most of my readers know about).

How did we get from there to here?

That covers an even larger section of history, really, it’s the history of the Church, and that history has resulted in “the Way” going from being a single entity administered (on earth) by a body of Jewish Apostolic Elders with James the Just, the brother of the Master, at its head, to there being “approximately 41,000 Christian denominations and organizations in the world,” according to Christianity Today. From one to 41,000!

To further quote from that source:

This statistic takes into consideration cultural distinctions of denominations in different countries, so there is overlapping of many denominations.

I wonder when the first “denomination,” that is, the first variant expression of the original “faith” of “the Way” occurred? Was it when the first group, assembly, or “church” was composed mostly or exclusively of non-Jews? Was it when information was flying about willy-nilly in the days of Paul’s ministry and there were different “Christian” communities operating with different bits and pieces of theology, generating varying forms of doctrine?

Now a Jew named Apollos, an Alexandrian by birth, an eloquent man, came to Ephesus; and he was mighty in the Scriptures. This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he was speaking and teaching accurately the things concerning Jesus, being acquainted only with the baptism of John; and he began to speak out boldly in the synagogue. But when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately. And when he wanted to go across to Achaia, the brethren encouraged him and wrote to the disciples to welcome him; and when he had arrived, he greatly helped those who had believed through grace, for he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, demonstrating by the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ.

Acts 18:24-28 (NASB)

John MacArthur
John MacArthur

Pastor John MacArthur gave Apollos (and subsequently, the Apostle Paul) a really hard time in one of his sermons for something I think could not have been Apollos’ fault. We can only know what we are taught and it’s obvious Apollos learned only those things about Jesus that were available to him. Trouble is, that describes a lot of us as well. I’m constantly in a state of learning, although I suppose we could say that Apollos didn’t even know some of the basics of the “Christian faith” (not that it was particularly “Christian” as we understand the term today…it was a Judaism).

In the Apostolic Era, at least in the beginning, we see Jews affiliated with the Way practicing Judaism and being accepted as Jews in Judaism, rather than Jews converting to some strange, alien religion (a “strange fire” one might say). Even when Gentiles began to enter, they were entering a Judaism as Gentile participants, and today, we have many disagreements on the Internet about what that really looked like and how that impacts Christian Gentiles in Hebrew Roots and Messianic Judaism (or for that matter, in traditional streams of Christianity) today.

But at that time, you had Jews and Gentiles as disciples of Jesus operating within a normative stream of Judaism. As I’ve said before, the ancient Jews were not jealous of Paul because he was preaching the saving grace of Jesus Christ and promoting a Torah-free life for all Jewish people, they were jealous because he was advocating for a more Torah-observant lifestyle for Jews and supporting the presence of Gentiles in Jewish communities who would not be mere God-fearers or even Proselytes, but equal co-participants. Gentiles coming alongside Jews in honor of Moshiach and to worship the One God of Israel.

It was too much for many of the synagogue leaders and members in the diaspora to understand or endure and thus began all of Paul’s problems with many of his own people, not that he ever stopped loving them and desiring their well-being in all things, including that they hear and accept the good news heralding the Messiah.

I am telling the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience testifies with me in the Holy Spirit, that I have great sorrow and unceasing grief in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh, who are Israelites, to whom belongs the adoption as sons, and the glory and the covenants and the giving of the Law and the temple service and the promises, whose are the fathers, and from whom is the Christ according to the flesh, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen.

Romans 9:1-5 (NASB)

Paul never intended to replace the Jewish people with Gentiles in the Way, nor did he intend on replacing Judaism with a completely new religion called “Christianity” since the Way was a fully formed stream of first-century Judaism.

But once you take a brick and throw it as hard as you can at a big, shiny, beautiful pane of glass, the glass shatters into about a billion pieces and, like the proverbial “humpty-dumpty, it never gets super-glued or duct taped back together again.

Or does it?

No, not right now. Right now, we’re a mess. We’re spewed and splattered all over the landscape, millions and millions of tiny, little theologies all running around like ants who think we’re mastodons, all screaming, “We’re right and everyone else is wrong.” Oh, we also scream, “…and I can prove it in the Bible.”

As my long-suffering wife might say, “Oy vey!”

But there’s hope. I believe in hope. I have to. Without it, I’d become terribly depressed at the state of the world and the state of my faith (not my personal faith, the “organized” Church kind).

My hope is in Messiah. That he will come. That in his return, the Messianic Age will reach fruition. That what he started nearly two-thousand years ago will become completed, that what began as the indwelling of the Holy Spirit for all believers will culminate in the Spirit being poured out on all flesh (Joel 2:28, Acts 2:17), and no one will teach his neighbor or brother to “Know the Lord” since we will all know Him (Jeremiah 31:34, Hebrews 8:11). In other words, the Messianic Era will see humanity united by Messiah under God in a way no one ever thought possible.

RestorationAll of our little denominations will have to “go away” and be replaced by the truth delivered to us directly by the Master, the King. That should make us all at least a little nervous if we truly grasp the implications. I realize that every denomination thinks Jesus will run things exactly the way that denomination runs them. He will believe everything they believe, he will understand and interpret the Bible exactly the way they understand and interpret it, and he will teach people to say, think, and do all the stuff that they say, think, and do.

But if there is only one Way, “the Way,” then all the other “ways” go away. What makes you so exceedingly sure that your way is the right one? Here’s another question to bake your noodle. What makes you so sure that any of the ways we do “religion” in the worship of the God of Israel is exactly “the Way?” Maybe we got a few (or more than a few) things wrong.

I’ll be generous and say that all of the 41,000 Christian denominations (plus everything that operates under the umbrella of Hebrew Roots, all the variations of Messianic Judaism, and all the branches of more normative Judaism), all running around saying “we’re right and everyone else is wrong” are really doing the very best they can to do what the Bible says to do to worship God and take care of human beings, albeit by reading the Bible through 41,000+ lenses.

But doing our best and believing that we are on the right track doesn’t actually make us right. Look at Apollos. He did the very best he could with what he had, and he did a very good job at it. But he still didn’t have the complete picture. To his credit, once he was “clued in,” he didn’t dig in his heels and say “I’m right and everyone else is wrong.” He took correction from a gentile, knowledgable, and authoritative source and integrated what he learned into his faith and teaching. When the time comes and the King arrives, will we display such grace when he teaches correction to us?

What will the Church look like after Jesus returns and reigns as King, or will it be a “church” at all?

I believe with complete faith in the coming of the Messiah, and even though he may delay, nevertheless I anticipate every day that he will come.

-Mosheh ben Maimon (Maimonides)
from the twelfth of the Thirteen Principles of Faith

I’ve written a sort of “sequel” to this blog post called When Jesus Returns Will We Go To Church? It takes the ideas I’ve presented here one step further, but it’s a big step. I hope if you’ve enjoyed this “meditation,” you’ll click the link to the next one.

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16 thoughts on “The Church When Jesus Returns”

  1. I’m thinking that the disparity in theologies reflects a human problem, and suppose that we-corporately, as humans-have really confused something that is simple. When someone like the PC(USA) church classifies something as a “Doctrinal Error” I’m not too shy to float the very incendiary question, “says who?”

    Nice write-up, sir!

  2. Theology is important, ground rules, labels, and boundaries are necessary.
    At the same time, God seeks sincere hearts willing to be used for His purposes, regardless of the name attached to the church they attend.
    Nice post James.

  3. I love the “ants who think we’re mastodons” part.

    I agree with your observations and that everyone, even if I need to give the benefit of the doubt, is worshiping and doing what they think is right and doing the best they know to do.

    I used to have a friend who would get frustrated with me and say, “Do you really think this is the ‘right’ way? Why do you always have to do it the ‘right’ way?” I’d laugh and say, “Of course I think this is the right way. Why would I intentionally do something the wrong way?”

    Sometimes it’s frustrating to see people doing things that we don’t consider “right”, and it can be hard to look at their doings and consider that they’re doing the best they know how and what they consider “right” by what they know. Very very rarely will someone do something they know to be “wrong”, particularly when they are serving G-d.

    When Messiah comes, He will set all of us straight. That will be a hard day, for sure. But it will certainly be a GOOD day!

  4. @Leo: Thanks. I agree that we’ve taken a basic message about who we are and how to relate to God and really confused the heck out of it. In certain corners of Judaism, it is believed that when the Messiah comes (returns) one of the things he will accomplish is to teach the Torah correctly, fixing all of our misconceptions about the Bible.

    @Sojourning: I don’t see the two areas as mutually exclusive and in fact, they drive each other.

    The only problem I have with the new theme is that it compresses the “text area” of the blog, so I’m having to resize a lot of the images. It also has a tendency to put hyphens in funny places.

    @Daniel: At this point, to be a living representative of a particular viewpoint about God, the Messiah, and the message of the Bible. I did listen to Pastor Dave’s sermon today about fellowship and interestingly enough, had some pretty good fellowship in Sunday School afterward, so maybe that can be a component as well, even though, in a lot of ways, I speak a different “language” than a lot of people around me.

    In Sunday School, for about a minute, in order to answer a question someone asked me, I had to go to the whiteboard, draw a diagram and give a very, very brief teaching (I didn’t want to hijack the teacher’s class). He joked that he was going to have to put me to work doing some teaching, and while I was flattered, I know Pastor Randy probably isn’t going to let that happen. Still, it was nice to be let off my chain for a little bit and to engage the class on a somewhat deeper level.

    @Lisa: We all think we’re doing the right thing. That’s what makes it so difficult for us to communicate with each other sometimes over issues where we disagree. We each want to convince the other person that we’re right and to correct their error. This, I think, is where the Holy Spirit may step in and help define what “right” is for both parties, using the interaction as a teaching tool.

    I agree that when Messiah makes our ways straight in the Kingdom, it will be good.

  5. I do not see a “church paradigm” in existence at all when Messiah returns. Of course, I could be quite wrong on this, and yet I see what is commonly known as “the Church Age” as a non-sequitur, if you will, in HaShem’s overall plan of redemption. It begins with Creation, then is formalized with the Torah, then Messiah comes the first time to bring full expression to the Torah, but, at this point the ideal plan is interrupted by the non-Torah-based insertion (or, perhaps, more accurately, “intrusion”) of what has come to be known as “Christianity.”

    As I see it, the whole thing has a “Torah – no Torah – Torah” rhythm to it… more specifically something like this: Mosaic Torah (Moses/Sinai/Tanakh) – Christianity (Yeshua/disciples/Tanakh+New Covenant) – Kingdom Torah (Yeshua as haCohen haGadol/Ezekiel 40-45+Tanakh+New Covenant). The middle phase was supposed to be “Messianic Torah” but was co-opted as the movement moved away from Jerusalem into Gentile lands.

    I see HaShem as showing great patience and mercy with all of us for bearing up with this 2,000-year-long mid-section that we are now reaching the end of. And so it is that I believe alot of Christians will be stunned, but in the best way possible, as it dawns upon them just how gracious and slow-to-anger and compassionate the God of Israel has been for the past 2,000+ years. It will be as it was with the brothers of Joseph when he revealed himself. Or as it was with Thomas as he touched Messiah’s wounds. And such as He was with Israel in the desert:

    “The Lord passed before [Moses] and proclaimed, ‘The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.’”

    He will forgive us, as Christians, as He forgave Israel when in the Messianic Kingdom the paradigm shifts back to the ways of the Lord as articulated at Sinai. At least, that’s how I view it from where I sit (with corrected, but still very imperfect, vision 🙂 )

  6. Perhaps the 2,000+ years experiment is giving us the opportunity to do things our own way – and see what results. We will be so much more appreciative of doing things his way; well some of us will anyway.

    I think a lot of the doctrinal boxing in and out is due to our need to cling to some floating piece of flotsam in a sea of chaos and uncertainty. We or our loved one may not be alive tomorrow, and all the things we trust in may be gone, but by golly, we are going down with the ship of our pet beliefs. And many are going to keep listening to whoever is the captain of their ship, even as they see the water-tight doors flooded.

    The article you linked to on my blog was reblogged from an excellent work that I have just become acquainted with called, “Law of Messiah.” My comment about Jews not having a Pope was directed at those who fall for the spiel of antimissionaries because they don’t know Hebrew and know little about Jewish history, areas where I have only put my toe in the water, so to speak.

  7. @Dan: We see this issue very much the same way. I think turning “ekklesia” into “church” and giving “church” a life of its own apart from Israel and the prophetic promises of God is a mistake. The “ekklesia” is an assembly which, in this case, is specifically an assembly of people who are disciples of the Master and who worship the God of Israel. That’s who we are now and that’s who we’ll be in Messiah returns.

    @Chaya: I agree that we tend to fall in love with our own theologies and doctrines and in many ways, they provide us with much comfort. They translate what we read in the Bible into a “language” and a way of living we are comfortable with or at least comfortable in accepting as “truth.” The tough part is accepting God on His own terms, which takes a lot more work and because human beings are such limited creatures, we’ll never be quite sure that we’ve got it all correct. But being a worshiper of God is more about the state of the heart than having all your ducks in a row. I don’t doubt we all have something wrong in how we understand all this stuff. That’s why I look forward to the Messianic Age when the Moshiach will teach us all things in truth and when the Spirit is poured out on all flesh so we will just know.

  8. I really appreciate Dan’s comment above.

    You said:
    @Lisa: We all think we’re doing the right thing. That’s what makes it so difficult for us to communicate with each other sometimes over issues where we disagree. We each want to convince the other person that we’re right and to correct their error. This, I think, is where the Holy Spirit may step in and help define what “right” is for both parties, using the interaction as a teaching tool.

    I agree that when Messiah makes our ways straight in the Kingdom, it will be good.

    To this I also agree, it is difficult to discuss ideas and perspectives with others when there are differences and there is not a mutual respect between the discussing parties. With a mutual respect between the parties, we should be able to discuss our thoughts with peace even when we disagree. This requires patience and humility, and these traits are strengthened when we submit to the Holy Spirit’s influence. I think it helps us to listen and hear a different perspective, to evaluate it as if it has merit of it’s own and then come to a conclusion – rather than throw it out in frustration right up front because it’s different than my own ideas. A strong faith requires doubt and testing, doubt causes us to test things and to dig deeper and to determine where we truly stand and why. It’s uncomfortable when we begin to embrace a measure of doubt and testing, but in my experience it has brought about much good.

    It seems that with the current 41,000 denominations you’ve referenced, that somewhere along the line we became less tolerant of doubt and testing. It seems we’ve cut ourselves off from the whole and into a bunch of tiny pieces, all striving to be “right” and not so much interested in loving one another. Yeshua prayed that we would love one another so that we may become complete in unity so that the world may know that Yeshua was indeed sent by the Father (see John 17:20-13). Maybe this unity that Yeshua desired that His followers would experience will await for the Messianic Era? Can we strive for it today, even if others aren’t willing to?

  9. Interesting that you should say all that, Lisa. I’m just finishing the rough draft of a blog post on fellowship based on my being at church today. It’ll publish Tuesday, but it’s a further “Tent of David” experience (though I don’t reference the book in my write up this time), a “stranger in a strange land” missive where in spite of differences, it is the commonalities of being a believer that drive the need and the requirement of fellowship. I just wonder, given everything you’ll read Tuesday, how I’ll pull it off.

  10. Dan my fellow Irishman (actually I’m a woman) said: “He will forgive us, as Christians, as He forgave Israel when in the Messianic Kingdom the paradigm shifts back to the ways of the Lord as articulated at Sinai. At least, that’s how I view it from where I sit (with corrected, but still very imperfect, vision )”

    See Dan, it’s say in’ stuff like this that makes me love you! 🙂

    Ahh, if more Christians could understand this instead of thinking that Israel blew it and God nullified their covenant, and divorced them, replaced them with us Christians who cannot possibly be divorced. (which begs the question, why do we Christians keep referring to and inserting ourselves into the vows of the 1st wife, that are supposedly null and void? It’s kinda weird and icky if you think about it.)

    But if God can and will forgive them, of course He will forgive us. That is what our assurance hinges upon. Why is this so difficult?

    Thank for making my day Dan!

  11. “I agree with the good Reverend that we all read the Bible through a particular interpretive lens and that no one has direct, raw access to one-hundred percent of the information God is trying to transmit to humanity through the Bible.”

    ______________

    I think with that claim these vital questions are being overlooked or ignored:
    1) Does God want us to know the truth?
    2) Is God capable of giving us the truth?

    If the answer to both of those questions is yes – what is standing in the way of us receiving the Truth (free of any “particular interpretive lens”) apart from our own lack of desire for or love of the Truth or a preference for man’s teachings and traditions?

    I’m not saying that our understanding will immediately come into line with the truth, but the process cannot start at all if we deny the possibility. The more we submit to God and His Spirit (who He gave to be our teacher) the more the truth becomes evident and the less we will be swayed by ideas contrary to the truth.

    We are not considering a merely academic exercise here where people can legitimately respond differently to abstract concepts – we are considering truth established by the creator of all things, objective truth that He reveals so that we can know Him and His purposes.

  12. Now… you’ve made my day as well, Ruth! I don’t know, but perhaps all of my love for Israel, which seems “organic” within me for lack of a better way of putting it, stems somehow form the fact that in Gaelic, Hennessy is O’Haengusa, “descendent of Aonghus” or “Angus,” which means “one-choice.” The idea of “one-choice” is intriguing to me as it seems akin to “chosen.”

    As I see this matter of what things will be like when Yeshua returns and rights the wrongs of it all: to know the Father is to love the Father, and to know and love the Father is to know and love the Son; to know and love the Son is to know how well the Son knows, and how much the Son loves, the Father. As He is a loving Father, if He forgives Jacob throughout all time through all of their wandering, it just makes sense that He’ll show that same loving compassion to we “wild ones” who are grafted into His cultivated tree and who have responded to that blessing with the kind of respect and deference appropriate to one who enters the banquet later, rightly taking the lower seat, and being grateful just to have it, whether ever being called up to a higher seat or not. Just being glad to be there. My father, who’s memory is a blessing to many, always forgave my younger brother just as he always forgave me. I always sought the approval of my earthly father as a kid, was crushed when I’d disappointed him; it’s not much different now, really, except eternity hangs in the balance. Gaining the approval of my Father in Heaven is the stuff of my most basic yearnings; the ontological substance that guides my every aware moment… when I’m not overriding all the good with my petty, self-centered weaknesses.

    We know the Father thanks to the life and teaching of His Son. From there, it’s only a matter of trusting what has been made known by the Son. Sometimes we make the matter so dense and sophisticated that our view of reality gets all muddled and mucked up.

    And, yes, you’re entirely right, the whole “divorce” thing has always felt “weird and icky” to me, as well. Blessings to you and yours, Ruth.

    And thanks, James, for the opportunity to think all of this out… and back into simpler terms.

    And Lisa… I’m blessed if any of my words were a blessing to you… Shalom everyone…

  13. Yes Dan, your words have indeed blessed my heart. Both of your comments have. Thank you so much for articulating your thoughts so beautifully.

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