Sunday, November 12, 2017

Delighting in the Biblical Narrative and Finding Our Place in It (Part 1)

In the Bible, both Old and New Testaments, we find a densely interconnected narrative which finds its source, goal, and definitive center in Jesus Christ. It speaks normatively about Yahweh—the one and only true god—and about our relationship with Yahweh from the beginning of our history together to its fulfillment in Christ’s glorious return. Our unimaginable privilege is to discern where, in this most meaningful of all narratives, our own little stories find their rightful place.
This is harder than one might think—even painfully difficult. Yahweh graciously provided us with creation as the perfect context for us to participate in a relationship of freedom with him, one another, and the rest of creation. In bitter contrast, the six false, malicious, yet conventional gods of Olympianity have harried us into constructing for them a Global Technological System. This GTS is the best embodiment yet of their lust for power and of the meanest sorts of relationships with them, one another, and God’s good creation based on power.
The gods, through the daily din of their precious GTS, seek to drown out all recollection and affirmation of the Christian narrative. Instead, they seek to bully and bribe us daily into understanding the biblical narrative as nothing but a collection of fairy tales about a god who is nothing more than a medieval superstition. The gods deceive us into believing all manner of lies and illusions. By endowing words like “evolutionary” and “scientific” with false but seductive persuasiveness, they drain our Christian personalities and churches of vitality even as they strengthen our Olympian personalities and their GTS.
Today Jesus invites us to do better. He invites us to discern and affirm, anew, the truth of the biblical narrative and at the same time the falsehoods that the gods seek to have us affirm as true. To help us in this process of discernment, we will recall affirmations which Jesus makes today, once again, through the Gospel according to Matthew. Today Jesus invites us to join him where he is and where we best belong.
Yahweh, creation, Adam and Eve. The Pharisees come to test Jesus with a question about divorce. And He answered and said, “Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate” (Matthew 19:4-6, New American Standard Version, here and following).
Let us note what truths in the biblical narrative Jesus affirms in this response to the Pharisees. First, he affirms that there is a god. Second, he assumes that, in the beginning, God created the heavens and earth. Third, in that context, he affirms that God created the first two human beings: one male and the other female.
Jesus affirms there is one true god of freedom and love. Today our churches have many full members who say they do not believe in the existence of Yahweh. This is an absurd belief. It is our own ceaselessly imperiled existence in time which is sustained only by the steadfast love of the one eternal god. Jesus affirms that Yahweh created the heavens and the earth not so long ago. Christians, perhaps even a majority of us, may be distressed to discover that Jesus unapologetically remains, even today, what Olympians would call a “Young Earth Creationist.” Finally, Jesus does not believe that humans evolved from other species in a process lasting millions of years. Rather, he quietly affirms that Yahweh created the first two as wholly human beings just like us. Today Jesus invites us anew to stand where he is and make these same affirmations.
Noah and the Flood. Jesus is teaching his disciples about the timing of his glorious return. “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone. For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the coming of the Son of Man be” (Matthew 24:36-39).
Here again, Jesus affirms that there was a man named Noah who entered an ark and, by doing so, survived a universal flood which the rest of humankind did not. James Ussher, using the whole biblical narrative, figured out that the Flood occurred almost 2350 years Before Christ. According to Egyptologists, the pyramids of Giza were built about 200 years before that. These same scientists also point out that no Egyptian record affirms the occurrence of a universal flood. Today, and each day, we must decide whether we are going to stand with Jesus inside his biblical narrative or with the Egyptologists inside theirs. Standing with Jesus doesn’t require our denial of the radiocarbon dating of mummies. It does, however, mean understanding Jesus, creation, history, our lives, redemption, and the end of history in terms of the biblical narrative and not the “scientific” one. It means not even mixing the two but keeping them strictly distinct. Jesus invites us to join him where he is and understand the meaning of the Flood for our lives today as he does: watch!
Sodom and Gomorrah. Jesus is about to send the twelve apostles on their first mission to preach the Good News. He assures them that some houses, villages, and cities will receive them well and rejoice to hear their words. Others, however, will reject them and their words. Following such rejection, he tells them to “shake the dust off your feet. Truly I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city” (Matthew 10:15). Jesus makes the same point with Capernaum because of that city’s rejection of him. “And you, Capernaum, will not be exalted to heaven, will you? You will descend to Hades; for if the miracles had occurred in Sodom which occurred in you, it would have remained to this day. Nevertheless I say to you that it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for you” (Matthew 11:23).
Almost 1,900 years Before Christ, Yahweh rained fire and brimstone on Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19:24), quickly and completely destroying them both, because of their exceedingly grave sin (Genesis 18:20). Not only does Jesus affirm that—he warns the people of Capernaum of the even graver consequences awaiting them because of their rejection of him. When was the last time we Christians, together with the other members of our own congregation, seriously considered that Jesus might be speaking through these very same words and making this very same warning, and for the very same reasons, to us today? Or have we been deceived by the GTS into believing its narrative? Do we really want to act like the only appropriate role for otherwise irrelevant churches is to justify the destructiveness of the GTS? Do we actually want to hide the lethal parasitism of the GTS behind empty chatter about love, love, love? Can we really not see in all of this our own devotion to the Olympian gods or anticipate its destructive consequences for ourselves and others? Jesus invites us today to stand with him in the biblical narrative which he still affirms above all others, even at this late hour, for our good and his glory.

Copyright © 2017 by Steven Farsaci.
All rights reserved. Fair use encouraged.