Only The Kingdom of God Will Endure

Sunday is the feast of Christ the King. Last Sunday, Jesus reminded us that even God’s holy temple will fall to the ground. All the institutions of this age will crumble to dust. I am reminded of the poem Ozymandias by Percy Bysshe Shelley.

I met a traveller from an antique land,
Who said—”Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. . . . Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;
And on the pedestal, these words appear:
My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”

Daniel 7 shows us four great creatures rising from the sea, kingdoms that are part human, part beast. Like Ozymandias, they are powerful, boastful, brutal and lethal. Then we see the Ancient of Days on his throne. Thousands upon thousands attended him; ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him. The court was seated, and the books were opened. The beast was slain. Its body was was destroyed and its carcass cast into the fire.

In the place of the beastly kingdoms comes the kingdom of the Son of Man, the human one, the one who represents true humanity. The kingdom of God is the only truly humane kingdom.

I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed. Daniel 7:13-14

The kingdom of this world has become the kingdom of our Lord, and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever. Alleluia. Amen.

Wesley’s Sermons as Doctrine

I recently ran across this excellent article on John Wesley’s Sermons and Methodist Doctrine from Dr. Cindy Wesley. Dr. Wesley compares the doctrinal function of John Wesley’s sermons with the that of the Book of Homilies in the Church of England in 18th century England. Sermons were the English way of “doing theology”.

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Poll: Neighbor Love Still in Second Place

Mark 12:28-34

The polls are in and neighbor love is still in second place. Well, actually, it was only one poll of one person, and it took place nearly 2000 years ago. And the question was this: Which commandment is the most important of all?

Neighbor love should feel pretty good about finishing second. Putting God in first place is all over the Torah. It’s the first of the Ten Commandments. Lightning flashes and thunder peals to announce its importance. Neighbor love – at least in the the specific form we’re given – is hidden away in a list of also-rans in Leviticus. It’s really only half a commandment.

You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD. (Leviticus 19:18 NRSV)

If this were college football, the love of God would be Alabama. Neighbor love would be Vanderbilt or Wake Forest. How they would rejoice if someday they could shout, “We’re number two! We’re number two!” Who would ever expect them to be ranked second?

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Christian Worship, Song of Solomon Style

There’s a lot to complain about in contemporary worship songs – the kind accompanied by guitars and drums. My children call it 7-11 music: 7 words repeated 11 times. The lyrics are often repetitive, trite and sentimental. The music is equally forgettable and wanders all over the place.

My two biggest complaints, however, don’t have anything to do with artistic merit. First, it often sounds like you are love-struck teenager singing to your boyfriend or girlfriend. It’s almost sexual in tone. Is this the way we approach the King of Glory enthroned above? Where is the weight of majesty? Second, the lyrics often lack any connection to the language and themes of the Biblical text. Modern praise music often worships a disembodied Christ, a spiritual presence detached from his story in the scriptures.

And then I read the Song of Songs, an erotic love poem with nothing to say about God’s covenants with Abraham, Moses or David. Nothing about God’s victories over his enemies. Nothing about the law, the temple, the priesthood or the history of Israel. Nothing of the prophet’s call to justice. Nothing about wisdom beginning with the fear of the Lord. It’s just a sexy love song – or possibly a collection of love songs- and a really cheesy love song at that.

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Biblical Foundations for Chaplaincy

Where are chaplains in the Bible? There are no chaplains in the Holy Scriptures, but the great story-line of the Bible naturally produces an activity of the Church that looks like chaplaincy, no matter what you might call it. The church reaches out to bless the world around it, regardless of how people respond to the call of the gospel. We do so because God blesses the world he loves, even if the world doesn’t bless him back. We are merciful, because God is merciful. God’s work of mercy and blessing are the twin foundations of Christian chaplaincy.

The Character of God

We start with the nature of God. God loves the world.

For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that everyone who believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16

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