Silver and Gold

Haggai 1:15b-2:9

In the second year of King Darius, in the seventh month, on the twenty-first day of the month, the word of the Lord came by the prophet Haggai, saying: Speak now to Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and to the remnant of the people, and say, Who is left among you that saw this house in its former glory? How does it look to you now? Is it not in your sight as nothing? Yet now take courage, O Zerubbabel, says the Lord; take courage, O Joshua, son of Jehozadak, the high priest; take courage, all you people of the land, says the Lord; work, for I am with you, says the Lord of hosts, according to the promise that I made you when you came out of Egypt. My spirit abides among you; do not fear. For thus says the Lord of hosts: Once again, in a little while, I will shake the heavens and the earth and the sea and the dry land; and I will shake all the nations, so that the treasure of all nations shall come, and I will fill this house with splendor, says the Lord of hosts. The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, says the Lord of hosts. The latter splendor of this house shall be greater than the former, says the Lord of hosts; and in this place I will give prosperity, says the Lord of hosts.

God, if all the money is yours, you have some explaining to do. And BTW, you said that a long time ago and things are still pretty much the way they have always been. I’m suspicious that when believers defend you by saying things like “God’s ways are not our ways,” they’re really just showing that they believe things are this way because in your great wisdom, you ordain or allow it. I believe that’s the is = ought fallacy.

This passage speaks of wealth redistribution. Really, God? We’re told that wealth distribution is evil and communist. I’m suspicious people say that because the way wealth is currently distributed suits them just fine, and they don’t want to even entertain the idea of upsetting the apple cart. But those same people are just fine with wealth redistribution as long as it benefits those whom they understand to be your chosen people. Wealth is always being distributed and redistributed. The question is who gets to control it and how will it be determined?

Right now the answer is it is distributed in such a way that half the world celebrates candy while the other half starves. If all the silver and gold is yours, why God, why?

Be Glad And Rejoice

If you’re tempted to believe that your past or present is robbing you of your future, take heart, and listen to Joel instead. For Joel there’s no such thing as a past loss or failure that can withstand the abundant opportunity of the present and the future. No such thing as permanent, irreversible damage.

And Peter was bold enough to believe and to preach in Acts chapter 2 that the words of Joel’s prophecy were fulfilled on the first Pentecost after Jesus’ departure. So we don’t have to wait for some end of time eschatological event. But we do wait in hope for the day when all will see the divine presence in the present; the Spirit has been poured out on All flesh. Our present hope bears witness to that reality.

Joel 2:23-32
“O children of Zion, be glad
and rejoice in the Lord your God;

for he has given the early rain for your vindication,
he has poured down for you abundant rain,
the early and the later rain, as before.

The threshing floors shall be full of grain,
the vats shall overflow with wine and oil.

I will repay you for the years
that the swarming locust has eaten,

the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter,
my great army, which I sent against you.

You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied,
and praise the name of the Lord your God,
who has dealt wondrously with you.

And my people shall never again be put to shame.

You shall know that I am in the midst of Israel,
and that I, the Lord, am your God and there is no other.

And my people shall never again
be put to shame.

Then afterward
I will pour out my spirit on all flesh;

your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
your old men shall dream dreams,
and your young men shall see visions.

Even on the male and female slaves,
in those days, I will pour out my spirit.

I will show portents in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and columns of smoke. The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes. Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved; for in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be those who escape, as the Lord has said, and among the survivors shall be those whom the Lord calls.”

New Covenant, New Creation

Jeremiah 31:27-34
“The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will sow the house of Israel and the house of Judah with the seed of humans and the seed of animals. And just as I have watched over them to pluck up and break down, to overthrow, destroy, and bring evil, so I will watch over them to build and to plant, says the Lord. In those days they shall no longer say:

“The parents have eaten sour grapes,
and the children’s teeth are set on edge.”

But all shall die for their own sins; the teeth of everyone who eats sour grapes shall be set on edge.

The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt– a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, says the Lord. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, “Know the Lord,” for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.”

Jeremiah envisioned a covenant relationship with God that was directly from God as an act of creation and forgiveness of sins, putting all individuals in a relationship with him and holding all individuals accountable for their own actions (“but all shall die for their own sins…, No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, “Know the Lord,” for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.)

I believe the later Christian development of the idea of Jesus’ substitutionary atonement for the forgiveness of sins is an unfortunate solution to a problem that never existed: the original sin of Adam and Eve imputed to the rest of mankind. Jeremiah offers a solution directly from God that requires no intermediary or imputed/alien righteousness.

Like the original covenant, the new covenant was kicked off by an act of Creation by God, and Genesis creation language is here too: “God will sow human and animal seed”. And covenant language: “I will be their God and they shall be my people.”

I believe that in scripture, we find ancient beliefs which bear witness to realities that have always been true. What Jeremiah believes about Judah and Israel, I believe has always been true about all of creation. I believe that we’re all born into a covenant with a divinity that creates and recreates based on covenant faithfulness to love and forgiveness. Because forgiveness is necessary for existence and creation in the world we live in, right? I believe forgiveness transforms us continually into the Divinity that creates us, making us the Divine agents of New Creation.

Treat People With Kindness

In Harry Styles’ song, Treat People With Kindness, he says:

“Maybe we can
Find a place to feel good
And we can treat people with kindness
Find a place to feel good
I got a good feeling
I’m just takin’ it all in
Floating up and dreamin’
Droppin’ into the deep end
And if we’re here long enough
They’ll sing a song for us (ah-ah-ah-ah)
And we’ll belong”

Reminds me of brother Jeremiah:

Jeremiah 29:1, 4-7
These are the words of the letter that the prophet Jeremiah sent from Jerusalem to the remaining elders among the exiles, and to the priests, the prophets, and all the people, whom Nebuchadnezzar had taken into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon.

Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.

While exile was understood as a punishment for Israel’s covenant unfaithfulness, Jeremiah didn’t believe that God was finished with the exiles. He speaks of gardens, offspring and multiplication like Genesis 1 and 12. The garden and the promised land were to be ground zero for covenant faithfulness. Now Babylon is ground zero. The exiles are not sidelined, they are not junior varsity, and the blessings of the covenant for the people and the planet are not on hold. Earthling unfaithfulness is no match for God’s faithfulness to his promises, even among uncircumcised Babylonians, so Jeremiah recommended intermarriage. In fact, the welfare (Shalom in Hebrew) was also the Shalom of the exiles. I believe that’s because we belong to each other and belong together. Jeremiah does not recommend listening to the false prophets who say otherwise. He didn’t believe God sent them. Neither do I. Grace and peace be with y’all.

In which Habakkuk uses the myth of redemptive violence as a theodicy.

The prophet asks God how long he’s going to let all the destruction and violence continue.

What good are laws if justice never goes forth?

The Lord answers that the violent nation Babylon is carrying out justice on his behalf, and the prophet answers that surely the everlasting one can do better than that.

God’s response? Well, the Babylonians will get what they deserve too, I’m in my temple so everyone can stop complaining.

So Habakkuk, like many before and after him, props up the myth of redemptive violence (MRV) as a theodicy, and goes back to singing worship songs.

And when Jesus’ life and teaching calls the MRV into question, they kill him for it, then centuries of Christians interpret that death through the MRV.

I believe “the Earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” when we finally stop adhering to the MRV. How long will that take?

Ahh, genocide.

I also don’t see how it is beneficial to believe in a god who tells Israel to kill every man woman and child in Canaan and take their land (I am not sure why evangelicals are under the impression that God is pro-life). That’s what’s wrong with the world and the traditional Christian God is all about getting in on that. Deities made in the image of petty tribal dictators bent on world conquest are unneeded. Because we become what we worship.

Trinity

One of the things that trips me up about Christianity is the whole traditional theism thing. I don’t want to have to choose between Baal, Zeus, Yahweh or another personal deity from the pantheon. I was talking to my friend Alan about that last night and he said, “yeah I’ve really been gravitating towards the idea of the Trinity as a mysterious relationship that we’re invited into.”

I believe the Trinity is Christianity’s greatest contribution to the divinity conversation. To me, the Trinity doesn’t say “pick me, I’m the best option out of all the gods”. What it does say is that whatever Divinity is, we don’t get it, we never will, but we’ll continue to be invited into it and experience it. And we will continue to try to put it into words and not be able to.

One-world government, Isaiah style.

Isaiah 9:1-7

For Isaiah, Christmas is all about one-world government:

“For a child has been born for us,
a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. His authority shall grow continually, and there shall be endless peace for the throne of David and his kingdom. He will establish and uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time onward and forevermore.”

How is this to happen? Not by conquest, but by making war irrelevant. War itself is overthrown. But how? Isaiah’s answer – people finally wake up and see the light:

“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness–on them light has shined. You have multiplied the nation, you have increased its joy; they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest, as people exult when dividing plunder. For the yoke of their burden, and the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor, you have broken as on the day of Midian. For all the boots of the tramping warriors and all the garments rolled in blood shall be burned as fuel for the fire.”

Isaiah believed that the world could have a happy ending after all, simply as a result of everyone waking up and seeing the light. And I don’t believe that means everyone will convert to Christianity. It means everyone realizes that God already loves them; we don’t have a deity problem anymore. We never did. God is pro-Earth and all its inhabitants. Put it to rest. Forget about the verses that say people are God’s enemies. Re-interpret them. Look at them from a sociological perspective, or reject them outright but whatever you do, don’t believe them. Wake up and see the light, and let’s get governing.

 

The real war on Christmas (in which Christmas won)

The real War on Christmas happened a long time ago, at the first Christmas:

“When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men.” (Matthew 2:16)

You can tell a lot about a person’s mental state by what they fear. King Herod was evidently very intimidated by the thought of thousands of peacefully dreaming children warm in their beds. So that first Christmas, countless dreams were snuffed out; voices were silenced before anyone had a chance to listen, collateral damage in King Herod’s expedient fight for the status quo.

It did not have the effect that King Herod intended.

Herod, if you can hear my voice, know that billions of dreaming children across the planet squeal with delight each year in celebration of what you tried to kill.

The Herods of this world understand that each generation is a threat to the current power structure. All it takes is for one generation to rise up together and say we’re no longer going to run the world through force and violence and lies. And that is a very intimidating and unsettling idea to those who make their living that way. Well, Christmas won. I say let them tremble.

And to the Holy Innocents who we honor today: Though we had to say goodbye too soon, we hear your voice in the joyful cries of every child on the face of Earth who wakes in hope each Christmas morning. May this generation honor you by building a world where children are no longer pursued to their deaths simply for being born in the wrong place and time, and where indiscriminate violence is replaced with indiscriminate love.

Theocratic times: Advent edition (alternate ending)

2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16

For all its benefits, the trouble with theocracy is that you never know what God is going to do next. It makes it hard to plan and budget. It just becomes so inconvenient to start making plans for God only to have him ask you where you came up with that crazy idea. Acting on God’s behalf is notoriously tricky, even for God’s hand picked aces.

But let’s not be too hard on King David for wanting to build God a house. After all, God had been painstakingly delivering all of David’s enemies and even some enemies’ wives into his hands. It only seemed fitting that God’s house should be at least as nice as David’s (Who better than David to identify with the need to come home, kick back and put your feet up after a long day of sword whetting on Philistine skulls?). And really, it’s kind of embarrassing when your house has more bling than your deities’:

“See now, I am living in a house of cedar, but the ark of God stays in a tent.” That’s cute David, but the “tent” was God’s idea, the heavens are his footstool and he’s the one building you an eternal kingdom. Yahweh is not high-maintenance.

It’s a good thing kings always eventually figure out how to do God’s will most of the time, otherwise we’d have a litany of tragic monarchies to show for it.