At a wedding recently I used these symbols to illustrate the Great Mystery (Ephesians 5) of marriage.
First the triquetra, an old Celtic symbol for the Trinity, God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It also illustrates how Christian marriages invite God into our marriages, he strengthens the relationship like a threefold cord (Ecclesiastes 4)
Yet The Mystery goes much deeper:
This is The Great Mystery and Mission of marriage:
not just that we invite God into our marriages,
but that God invites us into HIS!!!
True North - Christian
From hiking to ethics, politics, spirituality, psychology, relationships, in all areas of life in which decisions about reality are important, we really need a true reference point. We need the compass needle to point north so we can align ourselves with reality as it is, and not get lost. A reliable reference point.
For societies to function well together, a primary reference point needs to be agreed so we can all avoid conflict as much as possible. When I visit Indonesia, I know the local reference point is largely Islam, so I know how to get along. Even if I don't agree with Islam personally, I can accomodate wherever possible in good conscience. At Australian Federation we chose a generally agreed reference point in Judaeo-Christianity, the Bible, "under Almighty God." The consensus was that we all go along with this same reference point as a society. Besides, part of that Christianity was that "secular" meant non-sectarian, open to all, regardless of creed. So Christianity provided a good reference point for public ethical decisions and the moral conduct of society.
Spinning Compass - Agnostic
But from mid twentieth century, Australia's general population became less certain of Christianity, and even the idea of objective truth. With growing multiculturalism, the magnets of other ideologies made the public discourse agnostic: "we don't know what our public reference point should be." But instead of really thinking this through, broadcast technology rushed through the shallow, political-correct (ie. wrong in the real world) idea of "each to his own, you do you, I'll do me." Public media and politics mostly ignored the matter of truth, ultimate reality, and an agreed reference point.
This sounded democratic: "let's leave it as a private matter and not have a public reference point as such." And no doubt most Aussies still think that's what we have today... but not so!
Self-Aligned Compass - Naturalism
Most of us didn't even see it happen! Most assume we're back at Agnostic. But to the degree that we excluded religious / spiritual worldviews from the public square, one worldview took over the reference point. Naturalism asserts there is only the natural, physical world, and no super-natural, no spiritual or other dimensions. No God to answer to, no higher power, so do anything you want - but keep religion private. "Secular" has come to mean, "no religious views." In practice this became Australia's public reference point! Naturalism is now unofficially determining all our national, ethical, political decisions. Marriage, gender, religious education, terminating babies, the old and infirm, public narratives about science, climate, races, power/victim status, are all decided squarely on Naturalism as the reference point.
We were not asked if we wanted to shift our public reference point, let alone shift it to Naturalism. It just happened by excluding the other options. If we had been asked, "Do you want Naturalism as our new public reference point?" we would have certainly voted against it. Why?
1) Partly because more of us do experience spiritual realities than do not.
2) Also because with a little thought it soon becomes obvious that Naturalism is a really bad reference point. It inevitably leads to the Law of the Jungle, with everyone pulling for their own interests, and the most ruthless grab power to eliminate the competition. That's been the result in all socialist / communist governments, which are always based on, yep, Naturalism. We know where that road leads, and we don't want to go there.
The question now is, will we become publicly wise enough to thoughtfully choose our reference point before we descend into naturalist chaos? I know most Aussies think our reference point is agnostic, but in practice it's already been hijacked by Naturalism - is that what we want? Or do we want to choose a better reference point?
Which reference point would you choose and why?
- Which worldview actually produces freedom of conscience? (Not merely allows it.)
- Which has a proven record of producing moral societies, with humility and civic service?
- Which encourages separation of powers, and the idea that all of us are accountable under the Creator?
Even honest atheists admit that Christianity has yielded the best moral code for societies, and the safest freedoms for others to disagree. A Christian public reference point best serves everyone, including agnostics and naturalists.
Agnostic Jordan Peterson knows this: as a psychologist helping people to align their lives with reality, he says, “I live as though God exists, and I’m terrified that he might.”
That’ll work for Australia too.
(PS. After returning to the climate of freedom that Christianity brings, maybe we can also remedy that agnosticism about evidences for the Creator. But that’s another story.)
Biblical Feasts summary
Feasts are more than just great times. They bind communities together around shared concepts and experiences in common. Like a wedding feast celebrates around our common support of the union of these people. Likewise the feasts that God instructs his people to observe, bind them together too, around concepts core to their identity. And because these core concepts are fulfilled in Jesus, they are also about our identity too.
Due to our communion services, many of us already know how Passover relates to our life in Christ (the prophesied Messiah). Likewise, so do the other feasts.
1) Christ is the spotless Passover lamb, whose blood saved us from death, and slavery to sin.
2) Christ is also the Unleavened Bread, broken, wrapped, and buried to return later.
3) Christ is the First Fruits of the resurrection.
4) Christ’s Spirit is given at Pentecost /Weeks /Second Harvest, to gather Gentile believers as a second harvest.
5) Trumpets will announce the coming of Christ, the start of the age to come.
6) Christ will cover us on Atonement Day, the Day of Judgement - he's also The Judge - sorting out this mixed up world.
7) Finally Christ Shelters with us, as in the wilderness of this life, as he did as God in the flesh, and does now by his Spirit, he'll be with us in the Heavenly feast to come.
So although not all Christians observe these feasts, we can celebrate that Israel's core Scriptural feasts are fulfilled by the Messiah who grafts us in to His Story. Thus these feasts can bind us together very deeply.
New Life Church in Fremantle made these cards (I made minor embellishments) to consider how Jesus fulfils these Feasts, instituted in Lev23:1-44. Num29:12-34. Deut14-16.
Christians benefit from a closer look at the Biblical Fall Feasts, because, among other things, they foreshadow Christ's work in days to come. We have hindsight to help us see how Christ fulfilled Passover, Unleavened Bread, First Fruits, and Pentecost. We need foresight to see how he will fulfil Trumpets, Atonement, and Shelters.
This helps us understand why there are two New Years in the Jewish calendar: the religious-year cycle of teaching starts with Trumpets, but the calendar-year starts just before Passover. Some people start their spiritual lives at the beginning with Creation and the Old Testament, but some start with Jesus the Passover lamb.
The religious cycle begins with Trumpets for the beginnings of eras: Creation; a ram for Isaac; the Law of Moses. Atonement is made, and at Shelters we thank God for his presence. Then at Passover, Unleavened Bread & First Fruits we recall the Exodus. Pentecost calls for the second harvest.
And thus people lived... until the new cycle.
A new era of the Messiah is Trumpeted (think of the Prophets), the Saviour who will make Atonement, will Shelter with us - and scriptural clues suggest Jesus' birth around the time of Shelters - God-with-us in the flesh. At Passover/Unleavened Bread he makes the necessary sacrifice, then becomes the First Fruits of the resurrection, and at Pentecost gives his Spirit for the second harvest of Gentiles.
And thus people live… until the new era!
The final era will be Trumpeted at Christ's return, his prior sacrifice will be what Atones for us (covers us) on the Day of Judgement, and we will Shelter with him in Heaven.
And thus people will live… forever.
Whether you start with the Old Testament beginnings, or start with Christ's Passover, the feasts commemorate the whole history from beginning to end.
2) Noel had a way of dignifying normal life. We college boarders saw each others’ bad hair days, and once Noel asked my friend for a razor to shave because he’d left his at home. He was not embarrassed because he was genuinely humble. He knew that his little moments were just as significant as his global work. His gracious attitude was the same in all circumstances, everything was a gift from Christ. From the podium to the kitchen he was Christ's grateful servant. This inspired the community with integrity from top to bottom. Lk16:10 faithful in little things
3) Noel kept Christ at the centre of the community. Without this, communities inevitably drift. But Noel’s communities stayed true. He would often remind us that the college was to teach us to “think theologically,” because through Scripture we get to know Christ. Noel knew both intimately, which is why often you could tell he was led by the Spirit to say just the right thing, to have that gracious humility, to love that enlivening way. If everyone bathed in the Word and the Spirit like that, counselling services would become redundant. Eph5:26 washed with the word
Each house at this school has a theme, Courage, Character, Compassion, and that of Vose house is Community. This might surprise if you only knew Dr GN Vose from his Wiki page, looking at all his academic achievements and the Theological College he started. But that College was a Vose-like - no, Christ-like - community. It pulled people together. And I’ll warrant that same enthusiastic community was a hallmark of Noel's presidency of the Australian Baptist Union, and then of the Baptist World Alliance: he pulled people together. Noel regenerated discussions between Baptists and Mennonites in a way that hadn't happened since 1630! He planted a new church at 70! Community was his legacy. Back then we used to tease him about being "The Pope of the Baptists.” But he kind of was - in the best sense of “papa,” building up all of us who came to orbit around his truly Christian community.
Don't Squander Your Chance
For many this forced layoff is a chance to reset our priorities and activities. The decks have been cleared for us. So what shall we do with this time? First thought: have a rest! Yessss!!! Watch some movies, read some books, sleep longer…. Maybe get some jobs done, clean up, sort out… But after you’ve caught up, then what?
Well, what do you consider most important after all?
Now is a great chance to start doing what you really deep down want to do.
How about these top five practices for life:
5) Be generous with toilet rolls. If we don't share when we have, who can we ask when we need?
4) Spend quality time with the people in your household. Don't be isolated in your screens, make time to reconnect. Have dinner around the table; ask "what do you thank God for today?"; play a board game; do some craft; a jigsaw… google family fun ideas.
3) Reconnect with extended family and friends via calls or videolink.
2) Re-introduce yourself to God. Actually pray. Get to know him better. Day by day. (We can help with Core Stuff, and the Bookmark of HPOWER).
1) Meet for prayer, care and sharing around the Bible, in groups of 3-6, via videolinks if necessary, to actively grow in the Spirit, and share the love with others. (Cheers can help with this, and get you BOPping!)
This virus, now, is an opportunity for humanity to turn back to God. Let’s take it.
As Ferris Beuler famously said, Life moves pretty fast, if you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you might miss it.
Apocalypse. It actually means uncovering, revealing, as in the Biblical book of Revelation. But ironically we have smothered the word with such fearful connotations that we covered over the very thing that was meant to be uncovered! We fear the dangers so much we miss the main point.
Since we apparently live in such apocalyptic times... it’s well worth asking: what was meant to be uncovered? Answer: the Ending to The Big Story.
What Big Story?
The overall narrative from the beginning of time to end. The Biblical Story. The Story within which all our life stories are contained! Which begs the further question, what part will you play in it? Using the Olympic Rings, here’s a graphic summary of that Story:
Just like all great stories, there's an Author, Evil, Salvation, Freedom & Community.
Author - Blue reminds us of Creation and thus its Creator. God creates, creation is good, humans are made in God’s image, very good. But then...
Evil - Black, darkness, selfishness, the sin that damages creation. We try to take over from God, to run our own lives but only ruin our own lives. This sinful fallenness is shown from Adam and Eve to every story in the Bible...
Saviour - Red, blood, the Saviour’s mortal battle to make things right.
The Law and the Prophets (>>) foreshadow and predict the Salvation to come. The Old Testament repeats stories of sin and salvation: Adam, Noah, Abraham, Israelites, Judges, Kings, Writings and Prophets: we ruin life, God saves it, repeat. There are always warnings, and then judgement for the stubborn and salvation for the faithful. The cycles repeat through history even to the present day. But then comes The Saviour...
(X) Christmas reveals the Christ, the Messiah. 'Jesus' means Saviour. He is none other than the Creator become human, Immanuel, God-with-us.
Love summarises his message and his actions, love God first, and people as yourself.
On the cross, Jesus has DONE what we can’t DO for ourselves: he himself bore all our collective sin, guilt, shame, griefs, sorrows etc. for us, on our behalf. Separated from God, he then dies for all of it - in our stead. This means that sin is no longer held against us, we are made right with God! Amazing gift of mercy!
His resurrection overcomes death with life. This proves he has overcome our sin with his purity.
For 40 days he appears, explaining all Scripture to eyewitnesses, offering His salvation to all. Then…
Freedom - Gold, the Spirit of resurrection, in us to set us free from the law of sin & death. Jesus ascends, then 10 days later sends His own Spirit into His people, whoever trusts him, helping us to live like Him. Amazing gift of grace! And this gift is still being given and received today…
Community - Green, Grow in these relationships now and forever. Go share this Big Story. Loving God and people goes on now and forever (>>), in fact The Big Story ends with a divine marriage, Christ receiving his Bride - us! The Big Story turns out to be a Divine Romance.
So for now we are supposed to Grow in those relationships: turn from our sin, trust the Creator-Saviour-Spirit, and live life his way. This trust is what determines our part in the revealed ending: will we receive His amazing gifts and be in the marriage for the faithful? Or will we refuse, ru(i)n our own lives, and face the judgement for the stubborn? Go share this Big Story to anyone who will listen.
So I’m now sharing this Big Story with you. May God give you ears to hear it and pass it on.
I'm convinced this Big Story is actually a True Story, for good reason: it is uniquely coherent, uniquely comprehensive from the beginning of time to the end, and it uniquely accords with all the data we have available to us - including scientific, historical, experiential, relational and spiritual. Therefore it is reasonable to expect that the revealed ending will also come true.
Yes, the Apocalypse (the Revelation) contains frightening warnings and judgements, alarming events to come - wars, calamities, plagues, martyrdoms at the hands of evil economic and political ideologies. The warnings and judgements will cycle some more - exactly what we see in our day - little re-tellings of the Big Story of evil, salvation, freedom and community to come. But then The Big Story will end as revealed, with a final judgement for the stubborn, and a wedding for the Bride and Bridegroom who is the Creator-Saviour-Spirit.
But if we only focus on the calamities, we cover over the main revelation to be uncovered:
the Ending to The Big Story. Don’t miss the main point... What part will you play in The Divine Romance?