Life after Life after Death

I am refreshing myself with N.T. Wright’s work, Surprised by Hope.

Wright’s thesis for the book is that salvation isn’t about getting us saved and into heaven. it is about life now. There is a present hope and not just a “future” hope. To work in the present with the sick, the poor, the hungry, the homeless, the abused, etc., is not a distraction from the task of mission and evangelism. It is  central. 

Why? Because it’s what we see Jesus doing in his ministry.

“(Jesus)  was not saving souls for a disembodied eternity but rescuing people from the corruption and decay of the way the world presently is so they could enjoy, already in the present, that renewal of creation which is God’s ultimate purpose — and so they could thus become colleagues and partners in that larger project.”

When we are at work in this world in Kingdom power, we are doing things that will last into God’s future. It’s not about making this present life a little less miserable and a little more bearable. It is all a vital part of what is happening in God’s kingdom.

The work we do now is vital to what God is doing and what God will keep on doing.

A key to all of this is to re-work our definition of “salvation.” It needs to be unhitched from a meaning that is simply “this means I go to heaven when I die.”

Salvation means we have died. And now we have life. We aren’t preparing people for simply “life after death.” We have life after life after death. We aren’t about the business of saving souls to be ready for heaven when the humans die. We have a powerful life to live now that is all part of salvation.

Live now. And live in power.

 

Running from God? Good luck

“(The hard experiences) were only graces in the sense that God in His mercy was permitting me to fly as far as I could from His love but at the same time preparing to confront me, at the end of it all, and in the bottom of the abyss, when I thought I had gone farthest away from Him… For in my greatest misery He would shed, into my soul, enough light to see how miserable I was, and to admit that it was my own fault and my own work…” — Thomas Merton, Seven Storey Mountain 

You are thirsty. Come here.

There is a spiritual thirst. There is a spiritual hunger. I long for my life, and the life of my church, to reflect the position of spiritual travelers who have simply found fresh water and good bread. We journey together. Let this be place of refreshing. A place to settle in and ask questions. A place to explore. A chance for a weary soul to realize what real water can taste like. Lord, let us be this place!

Let the thirsty come. For the thirsty, please don’t delay. Hear the great invitation.

“Come, all you who are thirsty,
    come to the waters;
and you who have no money,
    come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
    without money and without cost.
Why spend money on what is not bread,
    and your labor on what does not satisfy?
Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,
    and you will delight in the richest of fare.
Give ear and come to me;
    listen, that you may live.
I will make an everlasting covenant with you,
    my faithful love promised to David.
See, I have made him a witness to the peoples,
    a ruler and commander of the peoples.
Surely you will summon nations you know not,
    and nations you do not know will come running to you,
because of the Lord your God,
    the Holy One of Israel,
    for he has endowed you with splendor.”

Seek the Lord while he may be found;
    call on him while he is near. (Isa. 55:1-6)

Christ has died, Christ has risen

“The central Christian belief is that Christ’s death has somehow put us right with God and given us a fresh start. Theories as to how it did this are another matter. A good many different theories have been held as to how it works; what all Christians are agreed on is that it does work. I will tell you what I think it is like. All sensible people know that if you are tired and hungry a meal will do you good. But the modern theory of nourishment — all about the vitamins and proteins — is a different thing. People ate their dinners and felt better long before the theory of vitamins was ever heard of: and if the theory of vitamins is someday abandoned they will go on eating their dinners just the same. Theories about Christ’s death are not Christianity: they are explanations about how it works.” (C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity)

Try telling that to a theologian.

Lewis keeps it simple. And on this particular point, I’m thankful.

Merton and “Conversion”

What has attracted me to Seven Storey Mountain over the years is the process of coming to faith. Merton sees his life in process and even when he “comes to faith,” it’s a process.

The passage of his confession and baptism into the Catholic Church is still one of the most moving passages I have ever read. He details the weight that is lifted off his shoulders, the confession of faith, the renouncing of the devil, the exorcising of demons from his life (and he knows they left), and so much more.

When he knew he needed to come to faith and decided to become Catholic, it wasn’t our typical “altar call.” He sought out the priest he knew and the priest gave him three books, telling him to read the books, consider what he was doing, then come back.

That’s just not “godly!” 😉

We could use far more consideration of what God may be doing in our lives and less “spur of the moment” activity. We need to recognize what God is doing all along the way, and even when we have someone come and say, “I want to come into the Kingdom,” we still need to have the fortitude to say, “Let’s consider this.”

I think it may help us from erasing all those notches on our “gospel gun belt.” You know… we have our “gospel gun” like the old West and when someone comes to faith because of our “sharing the faith,” we put a “notch” on our belt. Trouble is, we “shoot” so quick, a lot of those “notches” don’t seem to “stick.”

Lord, help us consider the cost of following you.