Tuesday, August 21, 2018

The Letter to the Holy Ones (all four stitched together as one letter)

I write this letter to you as a follower and witness of Jesus Christ.
I write it to you the Holy Ones who continue in the faith of Jesus Christ.

Grace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus, the Anointed, the Christ.
              I have heard there is a practice among you of reflecting on what you are thankful for before you receive the Holy Meal. It is in that same vein that I write this letter to you—surely the letter to the Holy Ones in Ephesus was a letter of thanksgiving, so is this.

I thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who has blessed us beyond measure.
I thank God, that in the beginning, before the beginning, Christ was with God, holy and perfect, beloved from the start, and we are found in that love too!
I thank God, that we are the Savior’s siblings—that gives God pleasure—to be Parent of an uncountable plethora of children!
I thank God, that we who were caged up by Sin with a big S, have been bought out and brought out of captivity by God’s Beloved Boy, forgiven for everything, every last fault, failure, and foible—because God is gracious, God is generous with all his gifts.
I thank God, that the unthinkable has been thought, the great mystery revealed, that not only are we found in Christ, all of creation, from the tiniest quark and string of matter out beyond the reach of the universe in all its iterations—all of it is being gathered in God’s loving arms.
I thank God, that through Christ, who is always our hope, you have been weaved into God’s will, and live to praise him!
I thank God, that you’ve heard the good news and that you trust Jesus.
I thank God, that you’ve been marked with the promised Holy Spirit, she is your adoption papers, pointing to your redemption, that you are God’s own people—such a thing glorifies God!

I thank God unceasingly for all of you holy ones, and I pray incessantly for you all. I pray that you might more completely know the Lord, that the eyes of your heart might be wide open and you will be awake to the fullness of faith, which is Christ’s life, death, resurrection, and rule.
I thank God that all who claim power: be they earthly rulers, -isms and ideologies of all sorts, fates, follies, habits, addictions, and even demons—that their kingdoms are done
—the Kingdom of God, the Rule of Heaven, is everywhere and always! We holy ones who gather together, who are Christ’s body, do we not pray, “thy kingdom come, thy will be done”? I thank God that it is and shall be so!
I thank God, for the life you now live, for at one time you were under the deadly powers of all those vicious things that defy God, but through God’s rich mercy and great love, even the death of Christ, you now live—raised with him, even seated with him, so all of creation might fully understand the extravagant kindness found in Christ.
I thank God, you are saved by grace through faith, not on account of your own gifts, but by the gift of God—our salvation is nothing less than the good work of Jesus Christ.

I thank God, that all dividing walls between peoples, all those doors slammed and locked, the clothe of our common humanity ripped in two—are bridged, unlocked, sewn back up—all those on the outside are brought in. We hopeless, godless strangers, all of us, are brought near by the blood of Christ.
I thank God that he is our peace!
I thank God that Christ has made two into one, and shattered all the walls that create hostility, all the laws that leave people out, he has fashioned a single new humanity out of our evil clangor and mess, making peace, reconciling irreconcilable people through the cross, putting to death hatred, animosity, and bitterness in his very body.
I thank God that we are no longer strangers and sojourners, but citizens with the saints and members of God’s household. I thank God for that household,
build upon the foundation of the earliest followers and witnesses to Jesus… Christ himself is the cornerstone and together we are growing and becoming a holy Temple in the Lord and a Holy Temple in which the Spirit of God dwells!
I thank God.

              I am caught, locked up, imprisoned, by a vision I had.
I peered into God’s throne room and was thrown down by what I saw
… I saw the truth of it, the ultimate mystery of the universe found in Christ
—I had spent so much time fighting it, following that feeling that God created a nice clear line between who is in, and who is out,
but I came face to face with the resolution, the answer to, a great mystery—a mystery that had spun out for generations, was hinted at, but only now has been weaved into a coherent whole
—I know I’m building this up too much for you
—building up your anticipation and excitement…
after all this truth may even seem rather mundane to you today,
after all it is has been preached by the apostles since the beginning… it is baked into what it means to be the church…
 yet it is the very center of the meaning of life…
It is this, when I peered into the throne room of God, I saw all of humanity knit together into one body.
Because of Jesus we are co-heirs, co-members, co-partners in the Gospel
We are fellow-inheritors, fellows in a single body, and fellow participants in Jesus Christ and his Gospel.
              That’s what I’m captured by, always stirred forward to preach to those who seem to be left out of God’s good news. They too are given the Kingdom, they too are inheritors of the overflowing riches of Christ.
              And don’t you know, this great heavenly truth—that we are one. It is our possession, but only if we give it away. Give it away to everyone…
everyone, even to the powers and principalities—all those things in this world that are bigger than any one person.
              At your baptism you renounce Sin, Death, and the Devil, you renounce all the powers that defy God
—those are who I’m talking about—the hosts of hell, fate and addictions, guardian angels and grief-inducing evils
—all of it shakes and repents when you are one… unity in Christ calls the whole world to be what it ought to be
—makes it good
…a Church that makes no distinction between peoples, that affirms all are one with both our lips and our deeds
—it transforms the demonic into the angelic, the evil into the enlightened, it allows us all to become who we are called to be in Christ.
All that is, seen and unseen, find redemption in that truth!

              I promise you this is no cake walk, it is nothing except a long hard slog, but it is faithful.
It is why I continue on in the face of afflictions—someone took a pair of hand cuffs and cuffed me to the gracious truth that through Christ all are one—I’ve been drug across the whole Roman Empire, always attached to this truth, and you might think my hand would chafe where those fetters have been attached, but it continues to be grace—grace all the way through—this transformative truth that I can’t help but follow after—I pray and thank God for it!

              I bow down in thanks, praying before God, the parent of every tribe and nation and people and family everywhere, from the heights of heaven on down to the depts of earth… We are all God’s Children!
              I pray that you all draw strength from the storehouse of God’s glory through the Spirit—by that I mean, I hope you always find your grounding in love, that you trust Christ in such a way that you know he always dwells with you.
              I pray that you know, that all holy-folk know, the immeasurable love of God
—it is the Temple in which God dwells,
our love of one another grounded in the unity we find in Christ, is God’s temple….
It is immeasurably wide and long and high and low
—this love is beyond my comprehension, and beyond yours as well (isn’t it funny I pray you will know the unknowable?) And yet I pray,
I pray that you all might be filled with it, with the Love of God, for surely it will overflow!
              Now, to the one who, by the power at work in us, is able to accomplish more than we could ever dream, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

              In case you’ve not heard me yet, I am imprisoned for your sake, and for your sake I plead that you walk in a way worthy of your calling—walk the way of Jesus.
My siblings, see that our Savior’s path encompasses our whole life. The Way is a gift that has been so good to me and the Church, and all of the Cosmos. Walking the way of Jesus is to be like a surfer, propelled by the wave of God’s grace and goodness.
              It is a journey we take after Jesus, but one we do not take alone—we go together, us Christians, we people of the Way.

              And I know, when we start talking about doing things together, being united in the great goal of our God found in his Son, it is easy to hop from unity to uniformity…
and if we were Pagans, surely that would be our goal—conforming and forcing everyone to fit in one mold and model,
but it is not so among us, we do not conform,
but confirm our relationship with Christ and with one another!
Our unity is the unity of a reconciled people, a people who can see difference and not jump to division… I hear there is a church in your denomination that has as its mission statement “Created in Diversity, one in Christ” that’s getting there, getting to my point!
              Our unity is not of blood or border, country or race
—and that means we have to hang in there with each other in moments of awkwardness and doubt
—we have to be humble and gentle and magnanimous
—I guess what I’m saying is that we have to love one another, and I’m talking about more than feeling, we have to love one another in an active, aware, intentional, forgiving and merciful way—that’s the kind of love that can bridge any barrier—that’s the kind of love and kind of community that finds its unity in Christ.
              Yes, there are many things that make us different one from another in Christian community (at least the kind I’m talking about) but we are all centered on the Christ, whom we follow…

              We are one body bound together by one Spirit,
just as we are called to the one hope of our calling,
one Lord, one faith, one baptism,
 one God and Father of all;
He is over all, through all and in all.
              I swear this will be the last time I talk about captivity, about being a prisoner… we’ve all been given gifts by Christ—in a sense we’re captured by those gifts—I imagine that is why I can’t help but evangelize—tell people about God’s love found in Christ Jesus—I was captured by the gift of the Evangelist.
              And we were given these gifts for a reason—so that the love of God found in Jesus might fill all things,
that all of creation might be what it is, good,
that the church might be what it is, the body of Christ,
that each of us might be who we are in Christ.

              Some will find they are apostles, some prophets, some evangelist, some pastors and teachers (poor saps). All of these gifts are meant to restore us to the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,
so that there will be a unity of the faith,
so that we shall know the Son of God,
so that we will be little Christs and together fill the world with his Love!
              Let me make it plain, your wacky pastor does his thing with Glasses, Map, Hammer
—let’s just look at the map part of things for a moment…the goal, the “Map”—the destination! is a New Creation!
We have a variety of gifts, but one goal, all the world resurrected, renewed, built up in love!

              And as you live in this old world, even as you strive toward the goal of the world as it truly is in Christ, do not be misled…
the way of Jesus Christ is truly a unique way of life, and there are many other ways that seem easier or more in vogue or more successful…
              There are many pagan virtues practiced by your society that can knock you off balance, that will try to pry you from Christ—let it not be so… be on the watch and look out:
-you shall be tempted to slouch toward unfeeling acquisitiveness
-you will be tempted to hate instead of love, or even cease to care at all
-you will be tempted to see acquiring things as the greatest goal of life
-you will be tempted to be so stultified that only greed will move you
-you will be tempted to give up sensitivity for stimulation.

              But hold fast to that compass you have, Christ Jesus is your north star, navigate knowing that the center of compassion is Christ, that feeling for another person, and even more importantly acting in love for the sake of another person—is Christ working through you.
              Truly, be renewed—shed those temptations, let go of the old creature that you might be part of the new creation—put on the new person, the one created by God, the one being made right and holy by Christ Jesus.
Be the people this letter is addressed to, the Holy Ones who continue in the faith of Jesus Christ. Amen.

              I have written many things to you:
-I have continually thanked God for you Holy Ones who continue in the faith of Jesus Christ.
-I have insisted that God is reconciling and uniting all people through Jesus Christ.
-I have proclaimed that the goal of God’s action in Christ is a new creation.

              And you all need to know
because God’s goal is a new creation,
because unity in Christ is how that is happening,
because you are folk who continue in the faith of Jesus
Therefore your life will be forever changed!
              Therefore all the rules in this world, from the 10 commandments to common courtesy—they have changed for us, haven’t they?
              Getting angry or tearing someone down… when you can be thankful instead… is downright diabolic.
If Christ is uniting us, one to another… then lying to your neighbor is the same as knowingly lying to yourself.
               Theft is just downright illogical… instead it is our holy logic that we share with those in need, recreating the world for Christ’s sake.

              Oh my family, do not grieve the Holy Spirit, do not become unfeeling, do not lose the compassion that is yours from Christ, such a loss would be a win for the devil.
Lose all bitterness, wrath, anger, wrangling, slander, and malice
Gain a tender, kind, forgiving heart—for God in Christ has forgiven you all.
              Be little Christs, children of God, imitating God.
Walk in love, for he walked the path of ultimate love for you.

              It is all worship, delightful to God, salt that flavors, and light that illuminates—that’s what we are, what right worship is.
              It is all worship, giving thanks and praise, being astonished by all that is good, all that is from God—notice it and give thanks!
              It is all worship, every role we have in the world, every relationship we have—-----—in everything you are, be mindful of Christ.
-As a crossing guard, be mindful of Christ,
as a student, be mindful of Christ,
-as a parent or grandparent, as a child, as a spouse—be mindful of Christ
-as a tax collector or rabble rouser, carpenter or fisherman
-as a teacher as a tinkerer as a truck driver,
-as a nurse as a night watchman as an anesthesiologist
-Ditch digger and a dime store clerk… every vocation
…in everything you are, be mindful of Christ.
Be empowered by God whoever you are,
and know that there are no second-class citizen in the Kingdom of Heaven!

              I write all that like it is easy or something…
it is not…
it is hard, it’s impossible even
…this journey we are on together, the way of Jesus, following after our savior…
it’s hard, it got him killed didn’t it?
So, bring with you enough bread for the journey… God’s justice
So, be swaddled with all that is from God…. Salvation and Spirit
Be bound tight by our loving Lord so that we can follow… enfolded in faith
Be clothed and protected in God… that peace that passes all understanding.
Be empowered by the Lord, after all there are plenty of powers that push against you,
powers that shall be overcome by the Lordship of Christ
—the diabolic kingdoms of this world shall come under the reign of the Kindom of God!
I write all of this to you in utter confidence and without fear, for I wear the very garments I offer up to you—Justice, Peace, Salvation, Faith, and Spirit… I have faced the worst of the world and yet been reconciled and redeemed, and so shall all that is be reconciled and redeemed through Christ Jesus.

Peace to the whole community, and love with faith from God the Father and Lord Jesus Christ.
Grace be with all those who have an undying love for our Lord Jesus, the Anointed.