Immortality and Resurrection

Scripture: Ecclesiastes 7.2
It is better to go to a house of mourning
than to go to a house of feasting,
for death is the destiny of everyone;
the living should take this to heart.

At the end of tax season in the US, we take a look back at this 2015 post from Steven Dilla. The issues discussed are, of course, immortal. — John

Reflection: Immortality and Resurrection
By Steven Dilla

In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes. — Benjamin Franklin

Franklin could not have foreseen Silicon Valley. Today’s tech elite feel differently (possibly about both issues, but we’ll focus on the desire to upgrade life for this weekend.)

“Death makes me very angry. Premature death makes me angrier still” says Larry Ellison, the founder of Oracle who has invested over $430 million into anti-aging research.

Peter Thiel — who co-founded PayPal and Palantir, and has a net worth over $2.2 billion — told Sonia Arisen, “The great unfinished task of the modern world is to turn death from a fact of life into a problem to be solved — a problem towards whose solution I hope to contribute in whatever way I can.”

The Washington Post describes Thiel as, “the embodiment of Silicon Valley culture at its individualistic, impatient extreme,” and he is at the helm of modern tech’s latest quest: to end death.

Max Anderson posted on Forbes about Thiel’s recent conversation with N.T. Wright:

“For Thiel, life is a self-evident good and death is the opposite of life. Therefore death is a problem, and as he says there are three main ways of approaching it. ‘You can accept it, you can deny it or you can fight it. I think our society is dominated by people who are into denial or acceptance, and I prefer to fight it.’ Whether we can successfully fight death is a question about the nature of nature and about our ability to understand it. Whether we should try to fight death is a question of our philosophy and our theology.”

Anderson quotes N.T. Wright from Surprised by Hope:

“The point of the resurrection…is that the present bodily life is not valueless just because it will die…What you do with your body in the present matters because God has a great future in store for it…What you do in the present — by painting, preaching, singing, sewing, praying, teaching, building hospitals, digging wells, campaigning for justice, writing poems, caring for the needy, loving your neighbor as yourself — will last into God’s future. These activities are not simply ways of making the present life a little less beastly, a little more bearable, until the day when we leave it behind altogether (as the hymn so mistakenly puts it…). They are part of what we may call building for God’s kingdom.”

Prayer: The Morning Psalm
W can never ransom ourselves, or deliver to God the price of our life; For the ransom of our life is so great, that we should never have enough to pay it. — Psalm 49.10

– Prayer from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Ecclesiastes 7 (Listen – 3:37)
2 Timothy 3 (Listen – 2:21)

This Weekend’s Readings
Ecclesiastes 8 (Listen – 2:41) 2 Timothy 4 (Listen – 2:48)
Ecclesiastes 9 (Listen – 3:13) Titus 1 (Listen – 2:24)

The Weekend Reading List
Peter Thiel, N.T. Wright On Technology, Hope, And The End Of Death by Max Anderson
Tech Titans’ Latest Project: Defy Death by Ariana Eunjung Cha
100 Plus: How the Coming Age of Longevity Will Change Everything, From Careers and Relationships to Family and Faith by Sonia Arisen (Basic Books, 2011)
Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church by N.T. Wright (HarperOne, 2008)

Remember Jesus Christ

Scripture: 2 Timothy 2:8
Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel.

Reflection: Remember Jesus Christ
By Jon Polk

Instructions to remember are commonplace across the landscape of Scripture.

Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. (Ex. 20:8)
Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and the Lord your God redeemed you. (Deut. 15:15)
These days should be remembered and observed in every generation. (Est. 9:28)
Remember the law of my servant Moses. (Mal. 4:4)
This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me. (1 Cor. 11:24)

Remembering in Scripture is often a calling to focus on God’s commands or to recall God’s intervention in history.

The apostle Paul in his role as mentor encourages his protégé, the young minister Timothy, that when doing the work of the gospel, we must “Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David.” Paul also tells Timothy to “Keep reminding God’s people of these things.”

Why? Because apparently many in the church were arguing about unimportant matters.

The most commonly quoted verse from 2 Timothy 2, “Do your best to present yourself to God as a worker approved,” is nestled between injunctions to cease “quarreling about words” and to “avoid godless chatter.”

When public discourse becomes volatile and contentious, it is far too easy for us to become distracted by matters of lesser importance. To become God’s workers who “correctly handle the word of truth,” we must focus on remembering God’s faithfulness to us, particularly through the resurrected Christ. Remembering helps us to keep the main thing the main thing.

Remembering the good news of the risen Christ provides perspective for our lives.

Remembering the resurrection also recalls Christ’s suffering and reminds us that we may experience suffering, too.

Remembering the Messiah who was in the lineage of David encourages us that God can and will work through the frailness of our own humanity.

The call to remember Jesus Christ as our focus, our goal and our hope, is echoed by a phrase in the Barmen Declaration, written in 1934 by Karl Barth and the Confessing Church in response to powers seeking to use the church in service of the nation of Germany:

Jesus Christ, as he is attested for us in Holy Scripture, is the one Word of God which we have to hear and which we have to trust and obey in life and in death.

As the shadow of Easter Sunday begins to lengthen, let us diligently continue to remember.

Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
My eyes are upon the faithful in the land, that they may dwell with me. — Psalm 101.6

– Prayer from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Ecclesiastes 6 (Listen – 1:44)
2 Timothy 2 (Listen – 3:17)

Unsurprising Oppression

Scripture: Ecclesiastes 5.8-9
If you see the poor oppressed in a district, and justice and rights denied, do not be surprised at such things; for one official is eyed by a higher one, and over them both are others higher still. The increase from the land is taken by all; the king himself profits from the fields.

Reflection: Unsurprising Oppression
By John Tillman

The teacher of Ecclesiastes and the teacher of Galilee seem to agree that oppression and poverty are a condition of the world that should not be surprising to us, but that doesn’t make them apathetic laissez-faire economists.

Solomon, the teacher of Ecclesiastes, says we should be unsurprised to see oppression of the poor and systemic corruption in the government.

Jesus, the teacher of Galilee, says the poor will always be with us.

Neither of them would have expected their words to be portrayed as endorsements of a laissez-faire attitude toward poverty or oppression.

Rather than an endorsement, Solomon’s statement is a confession of complicity. The king himself profits from the fields. The profit of the corrupt system, and the guilt for it, passes up the chain of authority and distributes itself throughout the entire economic system to every citizen. And Solomon calls this profit, “meaningless.”

And in the case of Christ’s words, often misquoted by politicians looking to cut social spending, Jesus is referencing an Old Testament passage everyone in the room would have instantly recognized. The other half of the sentence from Deuteronomy that Jesus is referencing is, “Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your fellow Israelites who are poor and needy in your land.”

Jesus is specifically referencing the abandoned economic practices of Jubilee. Under this system, debts (regardless of their origins or the wisdom of the debtors) were to be forgiven every seven years, including a complete reset of property rights once in a generation.

There is little biblical evidence that the system was ever followed as God prescribed it. If it had been followed generational poverty would be impossible. However, the pull of meaningless profit and gain for gain’s sake was too strong for ancient Israel and is too strong for us today.

As the teacher says:

Whoever loves money never has enough;
whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income.
This too is meaningless.

The meaninglessness of accumulating wealth is a universal symptom of our sinful condition. We are all affected by it, from the top economic strata to the bottom.

May we be generous not just with tangible resources, but by influencing the way our culture thinks about poverty.

In a world in which the poor and oppressed are too often excoriated as complicit in their own oppression, may we speak words of truth and comfort backed up with tangible aid.

Prayer: The Morning Psalm
Though the Lord be high, he cares for the lowly; he perceives the houghty from afar. — Psalm 138.6

– Prayer from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Ecclesiastes 5 (Listen – 2:50)
2 Timothy 1 (Listen – 2:37)

Prayer for Global Community from Japan :: Worldwide Prayer

Scripture: Ecclesiastes 4.1
Again I looked and saw all the oppression that was taking place under the sun:

I saw the tears of the oppressed—and they have no comforter;
power was on the side of their oppressors—and they have no comforter.

As we discussed yesterday, racism is an idol of our culture that the church has difficulty putting down. May the global church unite in this confession and call for community from Japan. —  John

Reflection: Prayer for Global Community from Japan :: Worldwide Prayer

Father, we adore you and praise your name.
We thank you for the fellowship we share with our brothers and sisters all over the world.

So many of us have committed the dreadful sin of failing to worship you as the only true God,
By failing to say no to acts of idolatry,
Serving the created instead of the Creator,
Causing immeasurable pains and sufferings upon
Brothers and sisters in our neighboring communities and countries.

We confess our sin and ask your forgiveness.
We ask your healing for the pains and wounds of our brothers and sisters, many of whom still suffer because of our insensitivity and sin.

We believe that you alone are the healer
And the Lord of true reconciliation.

Gracious God, help us to break down dividing walls
The walls of ignorance, indifference, prejudice, and discrimination
Which still separate people all over the world.

May we be agents of global peace and reconciliation
In the name of Jesus Christ
Our only true Lord and Savior.

Lord hear our prayer!

*Prayer from Hallowed be Your Name: A collection of prayers from around the world, Dr. Tony Cupit, Editor.

Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
I will bear witness that the Lord is righteous; I will praise the Name of the Lord Most High. — Psalm 7.18

– Prayer from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Ecclesiastes 4 (Listen – 2:18)
1 Timothy 6 (Listen – 3:16)

 

Decorating the Tombs of the Prophets

Scripture: Ecclesiastes 3.16
And I saw something else under the sun:
In the place of judgment—wickedness was there,
in the place of justice—wickedness was there.

Matthew 23.29-30
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You build tombs for the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous. And you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’

We cannot say we want your blessing God, but don’t disturb us too much. — Dr. Russell Moore

Am I buggin’ you? I don’t mean to bug ya. — Bono, speaking about apartheid in the middle of “Silver and Gold” — Rattle and Hum Live Concert Recording

Reflection: Decorating the Tombs of the Prophets
By John Tillman

Two weeks ago in Memphis, the city where 50 years ago Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated outside the Lorraine Motel, many brought wreaths to place at the motel, which now houses the National Civil Rights Museum.

Oh, how we love to decorate the tombs of the prophets.

The remarks below are excerpted from Dr. Russell Moore’s opening keynote address to the MLK50 conference, hosted in Memphis by the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission and The Gospel Coalition.

Jesus says you honor the prophets, and yet what the prophets said to you was from God, and the prophets told the people of God that they could not serve Baal and God…And yet time and time and time again, when told they could not serve both, the people of God tragically often chose to worship Baal but to rename him God.

And time and time again, in the white American Bible Belt, the people of God had to choose between Jesus Christ and Jim Crow. Because, you cannot serve both. And tragically, many often chose to serve Jim Crow and to rename him Jesus Christ.

“Your fathers,” Jesus says, “would not have minded the prophets either, if the prophets were dead. Your fathers would not have minded the prophets either, if the prophets would not speak. And now that there is no need to worry that they will say anything else it is easy to honor them.”

Martin Luther King is relatively non-controversial in American life, because Martin Luther King has not been speaking for 50 years. It is easy to look backward and to say “if I had been here I would have listened to Dr. King,”—even though I do not listen to what is happening around me in my own community, in my own neighborhood, in my own church.

But Jesus Christ is not dead anymore.

The most difficult thing about following a risen and reigning prophet, priest, and king, is that he will not leave us alone. He will keep bugging us. He will keep saying uncomfortable things to us. He will not stop challenging us to break down our idols.

We cannot say we want your blessing God, but don’t disturb us too much; we want your blessing God, but don’t change our order of worship; we want your blessing God, but don’t change our institutions of power; we want your blessing God, but don’t change our systems.

And if we have to change our worship styles, let’s crucify our worship styles. If God’s way upsets our political alliances, let’s crucify our political alliances. To be a gospel people means that we don’t seek a cheap reconciliation, but a cross reconciliation.

On The Park Forum, we have written extensively on the subject of race and racism. Why would we devote so much time and so many words to the attempt to break down the cultural idol of racism?

Because it is the idol that our culture can’t seem to eradicate. Just as there were always idols of Baal to be found around Israel, there always seem to be idols to racism standing in corners of our hearts, our homes, our cities, and even our churches.

May we seek Christ’s mercy and give ourselves to him as instruments of his suffering pursuit of justice, instruments of his reconciling love, and instruments of his restorative redemption.

Jesus say something
I am someone, I am someone
I am someone — Silver and Gold, U2

Prayer: The Morning Psalm
For you are not a God who takes pleasure in wickedness, and evil cannot dwell with you. — Psalm 5.4

– Prayer from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Ecclesiastes 3 (Listen – 3:02)
1 Timothy 5 (Listen – 3:22)

Further Posts on Racism

Racism Wears a Mask
Racism is not just an individual crime or action, it is an unseen burden we are forced to carry by our culture and our history.

Putting To Death Racial Hostility
Christians must take the lead in racial issues because we have the only viable ideology that, if we let it, will counter the ideology of hate. We cannot grow weary. We cannot tire of addressing the issue. We have the only answer.

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