Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Celebrating Repentance

 

Luke chapter 15 mentions celebration a number of times. It seems that finding a lost coin, a lost sheep, a lost son, and a lost sinner is cause for celebration both on earth and in heaven. 

But is repentance a gift or an action? 

Yes.

How does a lost coin find itself? Or a lost sheep find itself? Or a lost son? Or a sinner?

The son in the parable is described as “coming to his senses”. If we meditate on this, it implies that up until that point the son had been closed to the truth. There was a barrier. Was he blinded by his desire to spend up big? Had he imagined his wealth would never run out? Again, he was deluded, and unwise in his decision making up until that point. 

What seemed to take away the barrier, the blindness, the unwillingness to look at the reality of his situation was a severe famine, and the associated suffering, including what seemed to be a lack of anyone caring for him.

If we briefly go back to the widow with the lost coin, she lights a lamp and sweeps the whole house to find it. It seems she had decided that her best chance of finding the coin, was not a targeted approach. Her action was widespread/ universal. The whole house must be swept, the whole of the country comes under a famine.

 

The famine is an action of God, which somehow lights a lamp and allows the starving lonely son to see what he could not see before.

 

This is the gift of repentance.

 

It is possible the father knew about the famine in the far-off country and, being a person of faith, hoped that this suffering would indeed bring his son to his senses. And hence, in faith he watches for his son, and sees him from afar.

 

And then is overwhelmed with joy and must celebrate this repentance without considering the cost.

 

Every repentance costs the full suffering of our Lord on the cross.

 

Yet there is celebration before the angels.

 

Who is before the angels, celebrating?

 

Is it God the Father himself? 

 

Yes, a lamb is slaughtered for this celebration. But though once dead, this lamb is now alive, and is the author and perfector of our faith celebration.

 

There are not too many heavenly celebrations mentioned in the Bible. The angels celebrating at creation (Job 38:7), the wedding celebration (supper) of the lamb (Revelation 19) and the celebration of the repentance of sinners are the ones that come to mind. I am not trying to paint a sombre picture of heaven. It is a place of great joy, pure joy. But this joy is even greater when sinners like you and I repent.

Friday, March 18, 2022

Killing those who wish to die.

Dying.

The process of serious, irreversible, and permanent end to all earthly relationships.

 

Assisted dying.

Seeing or sensing this process, and adding pressure/ ingredients for it to occur more quickly.

 

Voluntary assisted dying.

People asking others (caregivers?) to provide the means and skill to speed the process of serious, irreversible and permanent end to all earthly relationships.

 

 

There are some assumptions.

 

Death is peaceful.

 

This is an assumption. A big assumption.

 

Post Christian western culture, with its history of an understanding of heaven, eternal rest, the welcoming arms of Jesus, or angels, paradise, clouds, softness, etc, has fed a general understanding of peace after death. How often, at a funeral, do we say or think or write R.I.P? (rest in peace). We sometimes add physical details to our hope, in the items we bury with our loved ones, and the picture we paint of our loved ones enjoying their favourite activity, be it fishing, or drinking in a pub, for endless days in a peaceful blue watering hole in the sky.

  

However, it remains an assumption.

"Rest in peace" is an expression more of hope than certainty.

 

There was a time, I believe,  maybe 100 years ago, when sudden death was considered a curse, as opposed to knowing death was coming gradually, giving the dying person enough time to reconcile with God and family/friends/enemies, making the possibility of peace after death more likely. Orthodox faith ("Orthodox", as in standard Christian belief, not a denomination) includes teaching on both heaven and hell. Hell being a place of eternal (forever, never ending, continuous, permanent) torment. Something, if true, you would certainly wish to avoid, and also, if true, occurs after death, and certainly does not imply peace. Being "right" with God, was the most important detail of a persons temporary life on earth, so fleeting in comparison with eternity. Physical suffering was not considered as serious as dying with unforgiven sins.

 

Post-christian western culture, as well as some modern Christian denominations, have held on to the "positives" and thrown away any negatives, regarding the possibility of post-death suffering.

 

As a result, the seemingly pointless suffering of a protracted terminal illness is feared more than anything that may or may not occur after death. In fact, death is welcomed, and hence the assisted dying legislation is given serious consideration.

 

And what of the act of killing, planned killing, mercy killing, euthanasia, assisted dying, first degree murder?

 

It would be offensive to some, to gather those terms under one umbrella. I do so deliberately.

 

"Thou shalt not kill", remains a well-recognised, and probably the most well-known commandment of the 10 given to Moses in the book of Exodus. The preservation and sanctity of life is held in high regard in the Jewish faith, Christian faith, Islamic faith, Buddhist faith, and others.

Yet in the face of terminal illness suffering, western culture, in Australia and other countries, is looking to make the practice of ending life deliberately, "medically" both legal and acceptable. I purposely put "medically" in inverted commas, because medical treatments are designed to be safe, life prolonging, life preserving. As soon as they are being used in lethal quantities, I believe they no longer qualify for the term "medical", but are now simply poisons.

 

To many, a "quick" end to life when faced with termianl cancer seems a "no-brainer". (Again I use the inverted commas on "quick", as I know that nothing is ever guaranteed, even the electric chair sometimes  malfunctions.)

 

And, after all, who really knows what happens after death?

 

Is there Nirvana? Re-incarantion? Annihilation?   Who has ever returned to tell the important details?

 

There are many accounts now of what people have experienced in near-death or arrest situations, even with the ability to recount details of what the doctors and nurses were doing in the emergency room or surgical theatre at the time. (Trying to bring them back, rather than trying to speed their demise...)

 

People talk of peace, and a light. But I have also been aware of people seeing flames and demons.

 

None of this is fully reliable. It is a matter of faith.

 

And Western society, was based and founded on the Christian faith. The singular, most important truth of this faith being the resurrection from the dead of Jesus, the Christ, the Son of God, the one person who (by faith, and by the historically reliable accounts of the New Testament) has actually died and returned, rising rising from the dead, in such a way as he will never die again, given that he has defeated death, overpowered it, and death no longer has power of him.

 

Jesus promises his followers a resurrection to eternal life. He also teaches, in the new testament, more than anyone else, on the reality of hell, and eternal judgement. His Parable in Luke Chapter 16, though an illustrative story, gives serious detail into the nature of hell.

 

As our western society runs headlong into proud, faithless, secular understanding and practice, with empty church buildings, and only the vestige of faith as a curious decoration, the process of bringing to irrelevance practices based on Christian belief is happening more and more quickly, almost inevitably.

 

And if there is an all-powerful creator God, who sits in judgement, it may be that he is actually allowing us to rush into this faithless/godless pattern of living.

 

Yet the Christian faith is in a God who is merciful. A merciful God who will bring his people to repentance, despite our stubborn refusal. But also a just God who will never simply overlook sin. In the meantime, people of faith must continue on. 

Continue in prayer and in hope, continue in serving a wonderful, Tri-une, merciful God, who loved the world so much that he sent his one and only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him would not perish but have everlasting life. 

And we do continue on as consistently as possible, despite changes in law, even if that means ridicule and other difficult ramifications.