Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Day Thirteen (13)

Reading today: Genesis 31, Psalm 13, Matt 5:33-48, Acts 8:1-25

Genesis 31
Why did Rachel steal the household gods? Was she trying to teach her dad a lesson or did she worship them? Laban and Jacob get in a big spat and then all of a sudden are sharing a meal and making a peace treat in the name of Yahweh. All very curious really!

Psalm 13
A well-known Psalm of lament. Such a turn-around in verses 5 and 6. David knows that God listens, will respond and rescue him in the midst of anguish and sorrow.

Matthew 5:33-48
Jesus teaches about vows, revenge and love for enemies, once again teaching with incredible authority. I love these teachings. Why do we need to swear by something other than our own word? It indeed demonstrates that something is wrong. I've always found it ironic that our justice system has people swear on a Bible, when the Bible itself says not to swear by anything but your own word. There is great accountability and responsibility in being trustworthy in the words you speak - no wonder so much of the Bible says we must be slow to speak!

The Law of Moses was essentially "tit-for-tat", but the reality of our human nature is never tit-for-tat, but more like tit-for-TATTATTATTATAT. We only need to examine human history to see this - a couple of thousand people die in 9/11 and how many have died in Afghanistan now? Jesus knew we needed a very different ethic and so revealed the true nature of the Kingdom to us.

Interestingly, when Jesus says that the people have heard to love their enemies, this is not a biblical mandate at all. Leviticus 19:18 says, "Never seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord." The Jewish teachers had interpreted this and added in the hating their enemies part as far as I can tell.

When Jesus speaks of perfection, he is not talking about the narcissistic perfectionism of the West, but rather wholeness and completeness. Luke uses the word merciful or compassionate in his text. To be whole or complete as God is whole or complete is to love with limitless compassion (in the words of Brennan Manning, A Glimpse of Jesus, page 70).

Acts 8:1-25
The crowds listened intently to Philip because of the miracles he performed (v. 6). Why do/would people listen to us intently today? I don't have the gift of healing and unfortunately this gift has been used and abused by many Christian leaders for their own glory and benefit. I believe people will listen to us today when we exhibit a heart for mission, for humankind in our lives and actions.

This passage contains a controversial understanding about baptism and receiving the Holy Spirit. Here are some thoughts from my Systematic Theology class:

Acts 19 → the Ephesians
• Paul thought they were believers, but then he noticed that they seemed to possess none of the marks of the Spirit’s indwelling
• So, he put a question to them: “Have you believed and received the Holy Spirit?”
• Passage of Acts 19 makes it clear that these people were not Christians
• They were followers of John the Baptist and they had been baptized by him
• But they had clearly not been in touch with John’s later testimony concerning Jesus because they had to be informed by Paul that John had spoken of Jesus
• In fact, Acts 19 says they hadn’t heard of Jesus, believed in name, been baptized into the name of him, or informed of the Holy Spirit
o “We have not even heard if the Holy Spirit is available”
• Paul tells them of Christ, they believe and are baptized in the name of Jesus
• This is a fairly straight-forward situation
• They had not heard the Gospel, repented, believed, attested the Holy Spirit
• Paul preaches the Gospel to them from the start
• They repent, believe, are baptized and exemplify the Holy Spirit

Acts 8 → The Samaritans
• A different situation than Acts 19
• Phillip preached the Gospel to them and there were many dramatic accompaniments to his preaching
• Peter and John come from Jerusalem to see what is happening Samaria
• They pray that the Samaritans might receive the Holy Spirit because they had been baptized merely into the name of the Lord Jesus
• Shepherd’s understanding: This one incidence has to do with the centuries-old stand-off between Jews and Samaritans
• If the Holy Spirit had been given upon profession of faith and baptism in Samaria, there would have been two churches out of fellowship with one another
o Jerusalem claiming to be ‘mother’ church and Samarian church the same
o The two churches would have reflected the stand-off that was centuries deep
• Had the Holy Spirit fallen on the Samaritan Christians in response to the preaching of Phillip, then they would have claimed that was Pentecost and two hostile communities would have been created
• Only when representatives came from Jerusalem to express solidarity did they receive repeated manifestations of the Spirit (note: repeated receiving)
• Acts 8 is one of a kind in the book of Acts
• It highlights the abnormality of a baptism not connected with the Holy Spirit
• In this way, the schism between the churches in Jerusalem and Samaria was avoided
• Acts 8 looms large in the charismatic movement
• Shepherd not saying yea or nay, but it does not support Pentecostal theology in this place
• It is one-of-a-kind, atypical and shouldn’t be expected to be repeated in the church today
• This should not be taken as a normative pattern
• It is an exception because of the exception of the Samaritans

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