Friday, February 16, 2018

February 18, Lent 1: The Signs of God #1: The Rainbow

Genesis 9:8-17, Psalm 25:1-9, 1 Peter 3:18-22, Mark 1:9-13

What are you giving up for Lent? Are you doing any fasting? Any self-imposed deprivation? The deprivation of the Lord Jesus was imposed on him by the Holy Spirit. Now St. Mark does not say that Our Lord fasted for those forty days, as does St. Matthew, but there’s deprivation just in his isolation in the desert.

Except for animals and angels. St. Mark is the only gospel to mention the wild beasts, which makes us think of Noah, who was with the wild beasts in the ark for forty days of rain. As deprivation the Flood was a colossal one, with very tight rations for man and beast.

The forty days of rain upon the ark and the forty days of Jesus in the wilderness are behind the tradition of the season of Lent, as is the forty years of the Children of Israel wandering in the desert on their way to the Promised Land, eating only manna. Lent is deprivation, and deprivation on the way somewhere. Like the hobbits Frodo and Sam slogging through the desert wastes of Mordor, eating only morsels of elven bread, their Middle-Earth version of the Eucharist. The season of Lent puts the church on a journey of deprivation, a journey to Good Friday, to the cross, to Golgotha, to our Biblical “Mount Doom.”

To guide us on our journey God makes signs for us, signs to keep us on the path that God is on. So my sermon series for Lent is called “The Signs of God.” This is a reworking of a series from six years ago. Each week we’ll look for the signs in the lessons, and go where those signs direct us.

It’s worth noting that the Bible offers us signs of God but never proofs of God. The Bible never bothers to prove the being of God. The Bible assumes the being of God to be so obvious and reasonable that only a fool would say there is no God. What the Bible does address is which God, whose God, and where is this God going. Therefore signs, not proofs.

Proofs conclude and signs direct. Proofs settle and signs are for movement. For proofs you can sit and analyze and judge and be done with it. For signs you have to get up and get moving to where the signs are pointing you. The Bible offers signs of a God who is on the way somewhere.

The sign of the rainbow is the sign of the covenant that God makes with Noah and the animals and all the earth. The sign of the rainbow is the sign of the covenant that God makes with Noah and the animals and all the earth. The sign is given to Noah as the high priest of the creatures of the earth, to Noah as the pastor of the congregation of the animals.

Yes, the animals are in this covenant too. Nobody asked them if they wanted in, nobody asked Noah either. This covenant is totally gratuitous, it’s all God’s idea, it’s God’s commitment to the future, it’s God’s gratuitous benefit to Noah’s descendants and to the animals and to all the earth.

For the sign God selected a natural phenomenon, visible to animals as well, to give it new symbolic meaning. The meaning of the rainbow is not in the colors but the shape. What God says is clear: “I set my bow in the clouds.” That means a bow-and-arrow bow, a bow stretched back into a curve by pulling an arrow against the string. The curve of the bow is directed upwards toward the target, and the bull’s-eye is Godself.

Do you get it? God pledges God’s own life and death as the guarantee of God’s faithfulness to animals and humankind. God is saying, “Cross my heart and hope to die, if I don’t keep my promise to the earth.”

How far can we go with this? Can we shoot the arrow all the way to Good Friday and the target of God’s Son hanging on the cross? Did God shoot the arrow at the dearest person of the three-personned God, God’s Son, Godself? The arrow shoots across the seven weeks of Lent, over the imaginary road of our annual pilgrimage. This is the road that takes us to the Emerald City, the wonderful city of God, but before the city is the Cracks of Doom, the yawning chasm of the death of God.

God pledges God’s life and death with the sign of the rainbow, God commits Godself. God says, “I’m in.” Before the rainbow, God let the world have its way, God kept distant, and when things got very bad, God just wrote it off, God ordered the Flood to clean it all away. But with the rainbow God says, “I’m in, I’m personally invested in this now, I will see this through.” So the sign of the rainbow means that God will start taking personal responsibility for all the sin and suffering and misery of the world.

Not that God is the one who is guilty or at fault, but, just as our next president will have to take responsibility for our dangerous national debt, so God accepts responsibility for the evil that we human beings have let loose in the world, God submits to taking blame. The rainbow tells us that God will pay the price for all the wrongness we have caused within the world. Which seems like a very self-sacrificial and self-depriving thing for God to offer.

Part of the price God pays is unfair blame. It’s the most common point raised against the being of God: how can there be a God if God allows suffering and misery in the world. The Bible would answer that God allows suffering and misery because God allows us! But we’d rather shift the blame elsewhere, so we blame God. God takes the blame. The sign of the rainbow means God’s self-deprivation of God’s rights and reputation.

On this path of God’s humility God invites us too, which for us means self-examination. So let me add here that for the Bible to try to prove the being of God would let humanity off the hook, as if we were neutral and fair and had the right to be the objective judge and jury. From the Bible’s perspective, we are the ones on trial. Only when we make the self-examining journey through our failures and our grief and anger and loss, does the being of God begin to make sense. For your mind to reason out God’s being, in front of your mind you need the ashes on your forehead.

Or on that same spot on your forehead, the water of baptism. The sign of baptism informs your mind behind it, and your conscience too. First Peter calls baptism “an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” Because if it were only ashes, if you just stayed with your failures and your grief and anger and loss, if your journey through the desert ended only at the chasm of the death of God, your guilty conscience would lead you to despair or else to reject the whole idea of God. But because of the resurrection of Jesus, which nobody asked for, God negates your guilt, gratuitously, just as gratuitously as God benefited Noah and the animals. God washes off the ashes from your mind and gives you a clean conscience, as a gift.

But the water of baptism evaporates, as a rainbow disappears, so what good is a sign you cannot see? The meaning of the sign is not the substance of water but the action of applying it, an action remaining in the memories of the witnesses of your baptism like they remember that rainbow they saw that summer day. The action of your baptism was attested in a certificate and recorded in a book.

These all testify that the sign was applied, and the sign means that the Holy Spirit applies to you the self-sacrifice of God in Christ upon the cross, as well as all the prior self-sacrificing of God on behalf of Israel in the desert, all the way back to Noah and the ark. All that self-sacrifice of God is applied to you by the Holy Spirit invisibly, as the water gets invisible in the application of baptism. You are given the right to the all the benefits of God’s gratuitous commitments, a clean conscience, and the right of resurrection.

Is your conscience ever guilty? I hope so! Do you have regrets about things that you have said or done? I hope so some time! So think of yourself as an unclean animal and of God as Noah, who herds you into his ark without your having asked for it, and saves you. Or believe that you are gathered along the road by God, that God is on the way somewhere, and taking you along. God is on the way with you. That this faithful God is on the way with you is how you can put your conscience to rest.

The sign of the rainbow points forward to the cross and the sign of your baptism points backward to the cross. They both are signs of God binding Godself to us. They both point us to God committing Godself to us. Not just God’s teachings or God’s laws, but God’s own self. God says, “Here I am. I’m not just God, I am your God. I’m with you and you’re with me.”

That kind of personal commitment is what we call love, especially when it’s self-sacrificial. These two signs are the signs of God’s great love for us. I invite you to believe that the most important thing that you can know about your own conscience is that God absolutely loves you, cross God’s heart and hope to die.

Copyright © 2018 by Daniel Meeter, all rights reserved.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

February 11, Transfiguration, Prophecy #6: "Listen to Him!"

2 Kings 2:1-12, Psalm 50:1-6, 2 Corinthians 4:3-6, Mark 9:2-9

I don’t hardly know what to do with the Transfiguration. I mean I’m not sure how to make it useful spiritually or give you a take-home from it.

I could talk about it doctrinally, if you have that old-fashioned taste for doctrine as an end in itself like my Dutch Calvinist immigrant farmers in Canada. Sjoerd Sierdsma told me that he liked to have something to think about all week when he milked his cows.

I could talk about it mystically, if you have that un-American love for worship as an end in itself like the Oriental Orthodox, and you cared about contemplation more than application. I could talk about it philosophically, or historically, or as literature, but what shall you make of it for your ethical life or spiritual life this week? I don’t know if it even wants that kind of application.

The disciples did not know what to make of it. They were confused by it. Quote: “They did not know what to say, for they were terrified.” And then the Lord Jesus told them not to speak of it till after his death and resurrection, I’m guessing for the reason that they did not comprehend it even though he had wanted them to witness it. Just the week before they did not comprehend his prediction of his death and resurrection, and that had terrified them too, and they argued against it. So why does the Lord Jesus want them to witness what he knows they will not understand?

There are many things that St. Mark does not explain to us. As I said last week, he does not write as an omniscient narrator. He never tells us what Jesus was thinking, he only shows us what could be observed of him. He does not tell us what Jesus knew or when he knew it. How much did the Lord Jesus know about the Transfiguration ahead of time? Did he control what happened there or was it more like it was done to him? Did he summon Moses and Elijah or was he surprised and delighted to meet them there? Did his heavenly Father do this to strengthen and encourage him or did he make this happen for himself? Did he know what his Father would say there? I think John Calvin would say Yes and Martin Luther would say No. I think St. Augustine would say Yes, as would the Cappadocian Fathers, but maybe St. Irenaeus would say No. I guess we’re not expected to know. We are not to put words in his mouth or in his mind, we are to listen to him.

St. Mark doesn’t explain why Moses and Elijah were there. And why those two—why not, say, Abraham or David? Was it because only Moses and Elijah had had their private talks with God on mountaintops? Was it because Moses and Elijah were prophets, while Abraham and David were not? Is there something inherently prophetic in the Transfiguration, if prophecy is the revelation of hidden things, or the future becoming visible in the present, or the exposing of secrets, and the truth that underlies appearances? In viewing Jesus transfigured, were they suddenly glimpsing the future, with Jesus resurrected and glorified, still in his physical body, but glorified with God’s glory?

I won’t be obstinate. Despite the mysteries and unanswered questions we can make some decent deductions.

We can say that God was in Christ.

We can say that the God of Moses and Elijah, the One God of the Old Testament, who shared God’s glory with no other, was investing that glory in the body and person of Jesus, such that Moses and Elijah talked to Jesus just as they had talked to God in the burning bush and on Mount Sinai. St. Paul can say the same in other words in our Epistle for today.

Also we can say what the disciples will have found confusing, that this One God who was in Jesus spoke as if there were two persons in God, a Father and a Son, which was hitherto unthinkable.

No less confusing for them was that with Jesus having recently told them that he would be killed, then how could this One God be fully in someone going to die, but we can say, after the fact, after we have surveyed the wondrous cross on which the Prince of Glory died, we can say what they didn’t yet see, that the Transfiguration was a prophetic glimpse of the unfathomable strategy of God’s self-sacrificial love.

And finally, we can say that the apostles were his witnesses, and through the ages they offer us their testimony as something we can choose to believe.

The Christian tradition has made those deductions and said all these things despite the mysteries still unexplained. The church has this story but does not possess it, the story stands beyond the church and its control. Such is Biblical prophecy. The church produced the Bible but it does not own the Bible and is not the Bible’s master, the Bible keeps breaking free.

This story I’ve known as long as I can remember, and it’s stranger to me now than ever before. The same with the story of Elijah and Elisha, how little I understand it. How foreign these familiar stories are, how uncontrolled, undomesticated, like wild animals that we can see are living just beyond the fence.

We are not told what Elijah knew nor when he knew it. We are told what the companies of prophets knew but not how they knew it. What the companies of prophets were is not explained to us, though scholars have opinions. We are told what Elisha knew and when he knew it, but not how he knew it. We are shown his prophetic power coming into play. The larger narrative of Second Kings is shifting from the story of Elijah to the story of Elisha, and our observation of Elijah is now from Elisha’s point of view.

Elisha is more with us than Elijah was. Elijah was the fiery prophet from the desert, a loner, the stranger, the wanderer. He stands for judgment and a jealous God and the absolute sovereignty of the Lord God. His name is “Eli-jah,” which means, “My God is Jah, my God is Adonai, the Lord.” While Elisha is more with us, he lives in town, and his name is “Eli-sha,” which means, “My God saves.” He’s the prophet of healing and rescue and reconciliation.

Elijah resists Elisha but Elisha will not leave him. The Bible so often resists us but we will not let it go. Elisha will not let Elijah send him away, and we will not be put off by those things in the Bible that we cannot understand and may not ever fully comprehend. If it’s true, as I have been saying, that all of you are expected to be minor prophets in some measure, then you have to stay with such stories and keep repeating ideas that you cannot master but still must love. Not only Biblical stories but the story of the world and even the story of yourself.

I see this difficult walking of Elisha with Elijah as a general paradigm. You are Elisha and your God is Elijah, and God keeps disappearing but you will not let go of God and you demand God’s Spirit.

You are Elisha and your best self is Elijah, and you will not let your best self reject or abandon the self that you are now.

You are Elisha and justice for the world is Elijah, justice, fairness, truthfulness, honesty in politics, economic equity and basic safety, and it keeps eluding our grasp, but you will not stop going for it and calling out that you see it.

You are Elisha and Elijah is the light in the darkness, and you keep reaching for the light.

You are Elisha and Elijah is the Transfiguration, and you don’t know what’s behind it, but you hope that you are glimpsing the future shining back into the present darkness in his body with the justice and the light of God.

This is my Son, the Beloved, listen to him. There are many competing voices in the world, and much confusing talk of what the Christian faith means, especially on the current issues of the day. But it’s wonderful to me how Jesus is respected in the world not least by people not in church.

I was watching a comedian named Alonzo Bodden, he’s a regular on Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me. He talked about healthcare in Canada, and he said, “In the United States . . . the Republicans are like, ‘Healthcare for poor people? We will shut down the government! In the name of Jesus.’ (Laughter.) They always slip Jesus in on things Jesus would have nothing to do with. (Cheering and applause.) Listen, I’m not Biblical, I’m not an expert, but I’m pretty confident Jesus would be okay with healthcare. I mean it just seems like the kinda thing he’d go along with. I mean Jesus used to lay hands on the sick.”

My point is not healthcare or Republicans but that the secular audience was cheering about Jesus. As I watched I thought that Jesus keeps getting his message through. “This is my Son, the beloved, listen to him.”

There is so much we do not understand nor can we. But you don’t have to be an expert to know what the messages of Jesus are. Stay with them. Repeat those messages. Among all the voices, listen to him. You keep on walking with Jesus, for he has told you where he is going.

Copyright © 2018 by Daniel Meeter, all rights reserved.

Saturday, February 03, 2018

February 4, Epiphany 5: Prophecy #5: The Message Is the Miracle

 Isaiah 40:21-31, Psalm 147:1-11, 20, 1 Corinthians 9:16-23, Mark 1:29-39

The Bible has many miracles, but not till Jesus does healing become the typical miracle. Before him, most of the miracles were miracles of judgment: like the Flood, or the Ten Plagues on Egypt, or fire from heaven on the enemies of Elijah and Elisha, and many more. Often these judgments included miraculous rescues from the judgment: Noah in the ark, or Israel escaping through the Red Sea.

Less frequent are miracles of sustenance: water from the rock and Manna in the desert, or the jar of meal and the jug of oil for Elijah and the widow. Least frequent are miracles of healing, only five: the healings of Miriam, Naaman, and Hezekiah, and two dead boys raised up by Elijah and Elisha.

With Jesus, none of his miracles are judgment, three of them are sustenance, and all the rest are healings and rescues and raising the dead. It’s a remarkable shift. From judgments to healings. It had been foreseen by the prophet Isaiah, but it is Jesus who makes the shift. The point is that Jesus makes the renewal of health to be the confirmation of the good news of the coming of the kingdom.

It’s not what they expected of the Messiah. They expected a warrior and a judge. That’s what John the Baptist expected. So I don’t think that the reason that Simon told Jesus that his mother-in-law was sick was to get Jesus to heal her, but rather why she would not be serving them, and to warn him that she might be contagious.

Yet Jesus enters her room and touches her. He raises her up—an early hint of resurrection. Quickly the word gets out, and as soon as the restrictions of the Sabbath day are over the people carry all their sick to him and he heals them. This new teacher is a prophet who has such authority to cast out demons and to heal. But that was not the job description of the Messiah that they were expecting.

That night he had to sort this out. Only just a day before he had never yet done a miracle! I wonder, when he touched Peter’s mother-in-law and lifted her up, how confident was he that she would be healed? How much was that a risk for him? How much was he making it up as he went along? No one had ever been the Messiah before. He had to create it. Was healing how he should occupy himself from now on? Is he supposed to deal with symptoms or with systems and structures? So to sort this out he goes to God in prayer, as much for understanding as for strength.

He talks to God at length, probably repeating the Psalms he knew, and listening to the silence, and he decides to move on. His message is most important, his miracles serve the message, not the other way around. He has to address the systems. The message is itself the major miracle.

But the Messiah was not expected to be a messenger any more than a healer. The Messiah was to be a prince, and a prince would have a messenger to go before him, his herald to announce the good news of his coming, but the prince is not his own messenger. How strange of Jesus to be the messenger of his own coming. He’s not acting like the Messiah should. No wonder many Jews did not believe in him, especially the educated ones. They figured he didn’t know what he was doing.

We could wish here that St. Mark would give us a decent summary of his message, more than just a phrase or two, but he doesn’t. Maybe he figured we’ve already got it from St. Matthew, who laid it out in the Sermon on the Mount. But actually I think that St. Mark’s particular point is that Jesus is his own message, his message is himself, his person, his “Here I am.” I am the miracle!

Who is this guy? What is this guy? Yes, a teacher, a prophet, maybe a prince, but more than all of these together. Yes, the Messiah, but here too he creates a new definition. St. Mark is showing us a person who is sui generis, unique, beyond definition, beyond expectation, to whom you can attribute many attributes but who exhausts them all, a messenger whose message is himself. “Here I am.”

What is St. Mark showing us? Not telling, but showing? In his own way—different from St. Paul who wrote before him, and different from St. John who wrote after him—St. Mark is showing us a person in whom we readers can recognize the presence of the Living God. How fully so, how totally, and in what way he does not define.

St. Mark does not explain how much Jesus knew about himself, or how far he could see ahead, or whether he equated himself with God somehow or just that he was doing what he thought God would do if God were there. St. Mark writes not as an omniscient narrator, he has no access to the private mind of Jesus. He shows us the effect of him, the startling effect of him, that he was saying, “Here I am, I am the miracle.” And in him we read God.

But isn’t God properly up in heaven? Doesn’t God sit above the circles of the earth? Have you not known, have you not heard, has it not been told you from the beginning? We are like grasshoppers before him, who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads the heavens like a tent, who brings princes to naught and makes the rulers of the earth as nothing. The Holy One says, “To whom then will you compare me, who is my equal?” Be careful, this is God we are talking about, so how dare you say that even in such a remarkable guy as this Jesus, that in him God should be saying “Here I am!”

Because the prophet Isaiah foretold it. Have you not known? Have you not heard? This lofty and far-off God comes down to give power to the faint and strengthen the powerless. The one who counts the number of the stars and calls them all by name is the one who heals the broken-hearted and binds up their wounds. The Lord lifts up the lowly. And Jesus lifts up the mother-in-law of Simon Peter. Yes, the message of Jesus is that in him God is saying, “Here I am.” The miracles serve the message that he himself is the miracle.

Melody reminded me that when we read the gospels, we are too easily drawn to the healings, just as the disciples were. Especially as we Americans are so preoccupied with physical health. She said that we spend one-third of our economy on health care, in which healing means getting to live a little longer with medicated symptoms. The message of Jesus is not that you can live a little longer with medicated symptoms. In fact he will call on you to die.

Better put, he calls you to a life you do not control the end of. There are limits to your power and boundaries to your knowledge. As I said, St. Mark is not an omniscient narrator. If the real miracle is the message that God says, Here I am,” then your life has meaning and value beyond the satisfaction of your expectations.

You see in this story the Lord Jesus as the long-expected one who keeps on acting unexpectedly. He acts no differently with you today. He is both faithful and surprising, he is both dependable and unpredictable, he is both constant and free, he loves you but you cannot hold him down. If he treats your symptoms he challenges your systems. You need him and you think you know what you need from him but he knows better and he keeps ahead of you.

So this is your take home: God satisfies your expectations and moves you unexpectedly. Yes, your God satisfies your expectations, never totally but sufficiently, but also keeps moving you unexpectedly. You find yourself like the disciples, saying, This is good, stay here, but he says, Lets go, let’s keep moving. Oh no, you can’t see what’s ahead, so how can you know it’s good? You do know what is behind, and even if it wasn’t great, at least you learned to live it. You know why people don’t like change: it’s not what they might gain but what they might lose of what they have. And yet your take home: God satisfies your expectations and keeps on moving you unexpectedly.

Your second take home is that you have a message to share and that message is yourself. I don’t mean some stock evangelism message that you have to tell someone for them to get saved. Don’t let the caricature ruin that you still have a message to share. Your message is yourself, by which I mean the meaning of your life as you get the meaning of your life from God. I mean your accounting of how and when in your life you felt God saying, “Here I am.”

Your message will evolve as God comes to you in evolving combinations of judgment and sustenance and rescue and healing. You recognize your message when you come to terms with your own life, and in your life you read God.

It’s only fair that I tell you my message. You might have guessed it. I testify that God has satisfied me with what I did not expect. That God is both free of me and faithful to me is the message of my life. And in that combination of freedom and faithfulness is what I recognize as love.

Copyright © 2018 by Daniel Meeter, all rights reserved.

Friday, January 26, 2018

January 28, Epiphany 4, Prophecy #4: The Teaching Is the Miracle

Deuteronomy 18:15-20, Psalm 111, 1 Corinthians 8:1-13, Mark 1:21-28

Our reading from Deuteronomy is one of the reasons for my doing this sermon series on prophecy. Prophecy is big in Biblical religion. And it takes various forms.

Typically the prophet is the person with a special connection to God, who has something to say in a time of crisis, in a day of decision, who tells the truth in a moment of truth. Prophets break open the logjams of history, they get things moving, they challenge the status quo.

That’s why they’re opposed, not only by those in power who have interests in the status quo, but also by those in bondage to the status quo, who have reason to fear the prophet only making bad things worse. “Moses, just leave us alone!”

Two weeks ago I said that Biblical prophecy is more often speech than sight. I said that when it’s sight, it’s less often seeing into the future than seeing the hidden reality, the reality hidden in plain sight. I said that when it’s speech, it’s rarely predicts the future, like a Greek or Roman oracle, but it states the crisis that is now, with its future implications, so that you can make the right ethical choices to bring about the better future. The Greeks and Romans believed in fate and destiny, but the Hebrew prophets taught human freedom, freedom for the sake of doing righteousness.

The Gospel reading from St. Mark offers Jesus as the kind of prophet that Moses predicted in Deuteronomy. And because all the prophets after Moses always had one eye on the Torah, and the because the Torah was read out loud in the synagogue, the synagogue is where Jesus offers himself as a prophet. In the liturgy there, the Torah reading would be followed by the Haftarah reading, usually one of the prophets. Jesus offers himself as a prophet, he’s offers himself as a sort of living, breathing Haftarah! He’s a teacher but more than a teacher–a prophet like of old.

He’s got a new teaching, a new departure, an advance, depending on your point of view. While the other rabbis continued to teach that a person is always a free moral agent, and always able to choose between good and evil, Jesus taught that your freedom of choice has been compromised and impaired, that you’re in bondage to spiritual powers too big for you, so that you do not have the freedom you’re supposed to have to choose the good. And what need is liberation.

That’s the second thing that St. Mark wants to show us, that Jesus is the liberator. He liberates the guy in the synagogue from the power of the unclean spirit over him. This is the first miracle by Jesus in the Gospel of Mark. The point of the miracle is that the miracle validates his teaching, that his teaching has prophetic authority. His words are more than just information. His teaching brings about what he teaches. He only has to say it. Like the prophet Elisha of old, his words have power to cleanse the unclean and liberate the man in bondage. His teaching does the liberating.

The teaching of the scribes did not have such authority. They didn’t expect to. They didn’t see themselves as prophets. Their job was to interpret the authorities already established, using the official commentaries, in order to work out the rules and regulations of daily behavior. No scribe would ever claim a fresh, new, personal interpretation of his own, but like any lawyer today would always cite some prior authority. While Jesus claims his own authority. Who does he think he is? He acts as if he speaks for God. He could be dangerous. His authority is at once appealing and threatening. Liberation is threatening if you’ve spent your life in a cage.

The scribes taught not for liberation but for survival, for holding the Jewish people together under a foreign regime. They taught you how to manage your ethics under a regime that was hostile to your ethics; how to get along under the Romans and still be holy; how to share the marketplace with your pagan neighbors and still be clean; how to have no other God even when the Roman gods were the ones in power. The teaching of the scribes was to manage this predicament. And here is this prophet of liberation. The danger of that is sensed by this man who speaks up.

Don’t get this story wrong. Don’t assume that the man in the unclean spirit was rabid or abnormal. I suspect the unclean spirit was not obvious to the others in the synagogue. Maybe the guy was unlikable, or maybe known for being contentious, or even maybe a creep, but it was not with some demonic voice that he challenged Jesus. In fact, he was being reasonable: Jesus will be trouble.

The Gospel says he had an “unclean” spirit. Unclean means good dirt in the wrong place, on your shirt instead of in the garden. Or good food going rotten, which is still food, only now for bugs instead of you. Or unkosher, or treyf. Unclean can mean pollution, a toxic environment. The Gospel calling the spirit “unclean” means the spirit was not essentially bad but only effectively bad.

It was not a demon from hell. The Gospel is not a medieval document. The unclean spirit belongs to the natural spirituality of the world, but of a world corrupted, a spirituality polluted by human violence and greed and oppression, disordered by human sin in its political and economic expressions.

It’s a toxic environment, and the man is infected. He’s in the power of pollution. Maybe he’s got a toxic boss, or a toxic family. Maybe he’s Tony Soprano at Mass. He is bonded to powers greater than himself, powers human and more than human. He is beholden to corruption both natural and supernatural.

As all the Galileans were in Jesus’ day, more or less, willingly or not. They were in the power of Roman soldiers, Roman taxes, Roman imperial idolatry, and Roman gods and goddesses. Did the Roman gods really exist? Not essentially, but effectively, from human projection, so that their power did exist. Their spiritual authority existed and their spiritual power was unclean.

This guy was specially infected maybe because of his obvious spiritual sensitivity. He calls Jesus “the Holy One of God,” which means he can sense the holiness of Jesus, his purity, his cleanness. The guy is telling a visionary truth. He’s being prophetic. “Jesus, I can see who you are.”

But his prophecy comes up short. He thinks he sees Jesus starting a liberation from the Romans, a rebellion they cannot win, and they’ll end up collateral victims of Roman reaction, so sensibly he challenges Jesus to just leave them alone. They’re stuck, there’s no way out.

And the guy himself wants no way out. He’s corrupt. What deals has he made, what are his conflicts of interest? We don’t know, but he resists the authority of the savior who can help them in their predicament.

Jesus rebukes the man’s resistance. He silences his corrupted sensitivity. He calls the spirit out of him. Jesus the prophet could see the unclean spirit hidden in the guy, and his word had power to cast the spirit out and liberate the man. That shows that his teaching is more than information. The teaching of Jesus is the liberation to set you free to start choosing for the new creation.

Here’s your first take home. If you are looking for the miraculous power of Jesus in the world today, you don’t have to look elsewhere than his teaching. His teaching is the miracle you need. Be open to his teaching and you’ll be open to his power in the world. Honor his teaching with his authority and experience his power in your life and in the world today. The teaching is your miracle.

The second take home is that because the miracle is teaching it is not anti-intellectual. It may cross into the supernatural but it still is for your mind and for your intellect. It may be mystical but you are meant to engage it with your understanding. To follow Jesus is to be a lover of learning.

The third take home is that if his teaching is threatening to you in any way, that means you’re getting it. If you think the teaching of Jesus is all nice postcards, then you aren’t listening. If his word is in some measure threatening, then you’re getting it. It is life-and-death teaching, so it is challenging. It’s like learning Latin, or calculus, or gymnastics. You’re going to fall, you’re going to make mistakes, it can be hard, and it resists you, and it takes time. But you can learn it. You’re meant to.

And this teacher is on your side. As I said last week, this prophecy is on your side. This prophet is more than a messenger of God, this prophet is the incarnation of God, this prophet is in it for the love of his people. This teacher doesn’t just love the material, he loves the students.

This prophet is like that high school teacher who sees you, and sees more in you than you see in yourself, that teacher who calls you to become the person that you can be, that teacher who makes a difference in your life. That is a kind of love, a very important kind of love, and that is how God loves you too.

Copyright © 2018 by Daniel Meeter, all rights reserved.

Friday, January 19, 2018

January 21, Prophecy #3: The Good News of God

Jonah 3:1-5, 10, Psalm 62:6-14, 1 Corinthians 7:29-31, Mark 1:14-20

You might remember from a decade ago a man named Harry Knox who attended our church. He had moved to New York to work for an organization in the Marriage Equality movement. Harry was a devout Methodist who had been turned away from ordination because he was gay. He was an activist but also a kindly encourager. He led us in Bible studies and in prayer, and he helped us to understand same-sex marriage. Eventually he moved on to another job in Washington DC.

He told us that what drew him into Old First, this introverted Reformed church, and not some more activist congregation, was a sign I had posted out front. The sign simply said, “The Bible is on your side.”

I remember having some hesitation when I put that sign up. Was I making it too easy? Was I too much appealing to the Park-Slope feel-good self-indulgent consumer spirituality, that in Park Slope we can have it all? What about repentance, what about God’s judgments? And then what about the racists and slave owners and bigots who claimed the Bible was on their side? Well, yes, to all of that, but if you didn’t believe that ultimately, somehow, the Bible is on your side, you wouldn’t be here.

We wouldn’t be here if the gospel were not “good news.” Yes, there’s bad news too, important bad news, but the news that is bad is bad for what is bad, and it’s good for what is good. It’s even good for what is bad. The news is good for what we don’t expect it to be good for, and that’s what makes it “news”. It’s “news to us!” We had not expected it, it’s not what we anticipated in the world.

“Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God.” In that statement there are two strange things.

The first is that the arrest of John the Baptist should be bad news. A bit unfeeling on Jesus’ part, and wouldn’t a Messiah try to get his cousin out of jail? Or maybe this is like our Epistle, “Those who have cousins are as though they have none, and those who mourn are as though they are not mourning.” Like soldiers in the army. When a lieutenant gets killed in battle, the captain does not stop the battle to grieve his lieutenant but only fights the harder. The arrest of John the Baptist was the signal for Jesus to get on it, no more waiting, no more preparation, put it all on the table.

The second strange thing is that Jesus was announcing “the good news of God.” That’s rare in the Bible and unique in the gospels. Usually it’s “the good news of the kingdom” or “the good news of Jesus the Messiah.” Here it is “news of God.” Jesus had new things to report about this God, he was announcing that God was starting to operate in ways they did not anticipate.

The people of Galilee believed in God, whom they were commanded to love, but they’d had no news of God for centuries, just old news. God was not with them. They had no evidence that God was even on their side. To deal with this, their political parties developed different strategies.

The Sadducees were in power, and their platform was that the status quo was all there was—just do the rituals and support the temple hierarchy and make the best of it until you die.

The Pharisees were the party in opposition; their platform was scrupulous legal observance for everyone, in order to earn God’s forgiveness and get God to come back to them.

And the independent intellectuals wrote that God had just plain gone over to the side of the Romans, and for proof just read the news.

Jesus comes with other news. In the Gospel of Matthew, he lengthily explains the news, but in the Gospel of Mark he just acts it out. He demonstrates the news of God—he models it. We will watch him do this in the coming weeks, as we read the lessons from Mark. By watching what Jesus does we learn what God will do. By watching what Jesus is like we learn what God is like. And by extension what God wants. It’s the news of God.

To give us the news of God is prophecy. It takes prophecy to tell us that the news of God is good news. It takes prophecy because to get this news requires working the interface of revelation and reason, of gospel and science, of God’s Spirit and our souls, God converting our self-sufficient thinking to receive the information that comes exclusively as the gift of the self-defining God.

It takes prophecy to break you out of ordinary time, and all the sufficient strategies you’ve developed to get you through your ordinary time. The prophet Jonah said, “In forty days you will be overthrown.” St. Paul wrote that the appointed time is short. The Lord Jesus said, “The time is filled up.” Your ordinary time is not full, but empty space in front of you, and it’s lengthy, not short. Ordinary time just goes on day after day, unless you suddenly get news. And prophecy is that news.

It takes prophecy to get you to respond. It takes prophecy to get you to repent, whether it’s the repentance from your sins like Nineveh or the more positive and non-remorseful repentance of the fishermen simply to change their minds and change their ways and set a new course. But for both sorts it takes prophecy to get past your resistances. I mean, ordinarily, who responds so dramatically as those fisherman did to Jesus, or as the whole population of Nineveh responded to Jonah?

The story of Jonah raises many questions, more than just the part about the whale, like why would an imperial capital so totally repent for a foreign god whom their own gods were defeating? And why would real-life fisherman do something so unethical as abandon the work they were doing, so that someone else had to finish it, and as if they didn’t have families to feed? They had wives but they acted as if they had none. They had business obligations, but they acted like they had none.

The point is freedom—the relativity of your obligations, and the fragility of your self-sufficiency. I think that’s the point of the Epistle, which is better translated not as admonition but description, so that in the pressing moment the married are as the unmarried and the unmarried are as married. It is neither your obligations nor your lack of obligations that define you or confine you. You are committed and you are free. You are free to be committed and you are committed to be free.

When I was a kid I got sent to evangelical summer camp. That’s where the child-evangelists worked, and they were skilled at getting us kids to give our lives to Christ. I always wanted to please adults so I got saved again every summer. In 1963, we were living in Bedford-Stuyvesant. When the summer days were hot, the big kids would open up the fire-hydrants. Powerful gushers of water and amazing fun. Until the cops would come.

One hot day, the big kids had opened up the hydrant, and I was ten, and I was wearing a cool new yellow bathing suit, and I wanted to get out into the street, but I knew it was illegal, and I had given my life to Christ, so I called the cops. I watched for the cops to come from inside the house with my bathing suit still on. It didn’t take long for me to feel ashamed and confused, and I stayed inside all day.

You know those child-evangelists had told me the wrong good news. They just wanted to get me to conform to their ideas of salvation, but they should have cared about me, and my peculiar life, and what it was like for me to be a white kid in a ghetto, a preacher’s kid, and taught me why I was free to go play under the fire hydrant.

When there’s so much wrong news in religion, prophecy tells the right news. Prophecy takes you in your real life seriously, and doesn’t force you into some religious paradigm. Prophecy can see the individual details that rule-makers cannot see. Prophecy tells you that God is with you, prophecy tells you that God is on your side and the Bible is on your side, and that you can repent precisely because God already is on your side. Whether you repent of your sins or you make a drastic and risky change in your life, God is on your side to keep talking into your new obedience.

So that’s your take home today, it’s simply that God is on your side. I don’t care who else misuses that thought, it doesn’t take away the truth of it for you, God is on your side. And you should tell others that too.

When Jesus announced the good news of God, he began to act it out. When you watch him in the Gospel of Mark you watch a powerful and sometimes even scary working out of love, a passion of love, an investment of love, a sacrifice of love, liberating love, healing love. And he called others to join him in the active incarnation of that love. That was the good news of God. It’s never old news. I invite you to believe the broadcast of it every week, and report it to others whom you know, that God is love and God loves you.

Copyright © 2018 by Daniel Meeter, all rights reserved.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

January 14, Second after Epiphany, Prophecy #2: "Follow Me, Here I Am"

1 Samuel 3:1-20, Psalm 139:1-5, 12-17, 1 Corinthians 6:12-20, John 1:43-51

From our First Reading, I am going to explain how the prophecy of little Samuel develops.

The prophecy begins as recitation. Samuel recites verbatim what the Lord God had told him.

But this objective recitation gets framed within little Samuel’s subjective experience, his childlike mind and innocent thoughts and natural fear of what he’s been told. His experience of the prophecy becomes part of the prophecy. 

And so does the hearing of the recitation by old priest Eli. The prophecy has become three-dimensional: the prophecy includes the objective recitation, plus the subjective experience of reciting it, plus the other subjective experience of hearing and receiving it.

And then it gets four-dimensional, when it extends through time, when the story is passed down and then written down in a book, so that it can be read out loud. The book itself is a prophecy. You know the First Book of Samuel is listed as an historical book in Christian Bibles, but in the Hebrew Bible it is counted among the Prophets. The story of the prophecy becomes the prophecy.

So when we read the story out in church, the prophecy gets prophesied all over again, and again in three-dimensions: the lector reading it out, which recapitulates the original objective recitation, then the experience of the lector and the preacher, which recapitulates Samuel, and then the listening of the congregation recapitulates old Eli and his “let it be.”

And the prophecy keeps moving forward into the fourth dimension of time, to open up space in the world, space in our lives, and in that space to welcome our questions and answers and our hopes and fears, inviting our faith, and in that space to call us into a community of mutual speaking and listening, generating our testimony and witness for us to share in shaping the world, so that we might share in creating the new creation.

I said last week that Biblical prophecy is typically conversational; not exclusively, but typically. Some prophets were loners, but Jesus gathered a fellowship, a community. Jesus says, “Follow me.” Follow me into my words, follow me into my life and conversation. And the Gospel reports this marvelous three-way conversation zipping around between Jesus, Philip, and Nathanael.

It’s electric and it moves fast, from the “follow me” to a “eureka-we have found him,” to a sarcastic put-down, to a second invitation, to a double-entendre compliment, to a defensive question, to a surprising answer, to an ecstatic profusion of titles, to a penetrating rhetorical question, to the climactic prophetic prediction. In the beginning was the talk, and the talk was made flesh and dwelt among us. We can detect an image of the Holy Trinity in this three-personned prophecy. The conversational prophecy began with Philip confessing his name, and it ended with Our Lord’s climactic prediction.

I said last week that Biblical prophecy is more typically speaking than seeing. But not exclusively. And when it is seeing, it is rarely seeing the future and usually seeing the hidden reality of now, seeing beyond the veil of human limitation, seeing the present world as heaven sees it. Here Jesus calls it “seeing greater things.” 

And the vision that he predicts is strange. He adapts the Old Testament vision of Jacob’s Ladder, Jacob’s staircase, stretching from earth to heaven with angels moving up and down, and he makes himself the escalator! Shall we picture a giant, stretched-out Jesus, toes in the earth and finger-tips in heaven? Or the other way around, toes in heaven and fingers in the earth, so that we can see his face? Where is Jesus when he says, like little Samuel, “Here I am”? Is he in heaven as the Son of Man, representing us and pleading for us and judging us, or is he here with us, the Son of God in whom the whole of God is pleased to dwell? Or both? How to interpret this strange vision? Does the prophet always understand what she can see?

Prophecy tells more than we can understand in order to challenge our understanding and to nourish it. Prophets often don’t comprehend the greater implications of their prophecies. When Nathanael confessed Jesus as “the Son of God and the King of Israel” he meant those titles as equivalents, and at one level they were, so he was right, yet he did not comprehend the greater implications of those titles.

I know that I often have to speak to you of things I do not fully understand. And yet I always appeal to your understanding. So let me invite you to speak of things you do not fully understand. Not from willful ignorance, but because you want to be as open to what’s beyond you as was Samuel, you want to be as quickened by it as Philip and Nathanael were, and you want to enjoy it.

But prophecy can be trouble. It can tingle your ears. Little Samuel could sense the trouble in it. With touching economy the narrative reports him sleepless after the message, and then he goes about his chores as if nothing had happened to avoid Eli.

In coming weeks we will read other troubling prophecies. Biblical prophecy can sound hurtful or vengeful, but even then its purpose is to clear away and open up. It makes space in the world, space within the clutter of humankind’s initiatives, space within the rubble of human self-aggrandizement, and space within the garbage of human pride. Space in your own life, space within your fears and commitments and assumptions.

And into this space that prophecy makes, Jesus says, “Follow me.” He invites you to follow him into the great conversation that both judges the world and renews the world. He calls you both backward and forward. You follow him into these old books and stories, these poems and histories, these ancient narratives, and then as you talk about them with other listeners God speaks to you.

Somebody asked me how come God doesn’t speak to us anymore like in the ancient days. God is still speaking, but in a different way, by means of the four-dimensional Biblical conversation that you can be part of. It will be the Lord, though you can never neatly distinguish God’s voice from your own subjective experience or from the back-and-forth of dialogue, but by the Holy Spirit it will be the Lord. That’s the way that the Lord Jesus has set it up with his companions.

And you also follow him into the present and the future, as his conversation moves forward in time, and as you put it into practice, on your own and in community. Not just ethical practice, but prophetic practice, bearing witness to the truth amidst the prevalent confusion, and by your lifestyle you testify against the news which is not fake but has no hope.

One of you told me this week that it’s precisely in times that we are living that prophecy is relevant and necessary. Right within the sad and crazy world the dynamic conversation is gradually, and with humility, creating a new heaven and new earth. “Let this be, let that be, it is the Lord.”

Jesus says, “Follow me,” and what do these lessons tell you to say? Like little Samuel, you can say, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” Because you have to do a lot of listening to share in prophecy. Listening like Eli too. More listening than talking. I love the picture of little Samuel being open to God by being present to himself. Being patient in the silence for the still, small voice of God.

And you can also say something more basic, what little Samuel said to begin with, “Here I am.” Three times he said it, “Here I am,” which in Hebrew is Hineini. I have spoken to you of this before. It’s what Abraham said to God at the sacrifice of Isaac. “Here am I, here I am.” It’s what the Virgin Mary said to the archangel. It’s what Adam failed to say when he hid himself from God.

You have to choose to say it, “Here I am,” because there is so much to push you off, and even the Word of God pushes you off at least a little bit. Why does the Bible say that? What does this passage mean? And do I have to join another conversation, do I have to enter another community? Can’t I just hear God’s voice on my own?

I am not saying you can’t ever. But the deep purpose of the conversational prophecy is that it requires love and it’s a practice of love. You don’t just listen for God, you listen for each other. You don’t begin with, “Let me tell you,” you begin with, “Here I am.” The love that little Samuel had for old Eli is important to the story. “Here I am, I present myself, I am present to you, I offer myself to you.”

Our great example is the three persons of the Holy Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, eternally present to each other in their original and loving conversation. Even prophecy comes down to love. In love Jesus calls you, “Follow me,” and you practice love when you answer, “Here I am.”

Copyright © 2018 by Daniel Meeter, all rights reserved.

Sunday, January 07, 2018

January 7: The Baptism of Our Lord; Prophecy #1: Four Minor Prophets

Genesis 1:1-5, Psalm 29, Acts 19:1-7, Mark 1:4-11

Let’s start with Heidelberg Catechism Questions 31 and 32. It’s from 1563, so it’s real old-timey:

31 Q. Why is the Son of God called “Christ,” meaning “anointed”?

A. Because he has been ordained by God the Father and has been anointed with the Holy Spirit to be: our chief prophet and teacher, who perfectly reveals to us the secret counsel and will of God for our deliverance; our only high priest, who has set us free by the one sacrifice of his body, and who continually pleads our cause with the Father; and our eternal king, who governs us by his Word and Spirit, and who guards us and keeps us in the freedom he has won for us.

32 Q. Why are you called a “Christian”?

A. Because by faith I am a member of Christ and so I share in his anointing. I am anointed: to confess his name; to present myself to him as a living sacrifice of thanksgiving; to strive with a good conscience against sin and the devil in this life, and afterward to reign with Christ over all creation for all eternity.

You see how the second question follows on the first question: as the word “Christian,” which is used of you, derives from the title of “Christ,” which is used of him, so your purpose and identity as a Christian derive from his purpose and identity as Christ. And if Christ is a prophet, a priest, and a king, then you as a Christian are also in some sense a prophet, and a priest, and a king or queen or ruler or whatever.

Today, in particular, prophecy. According to the Catechism, you share in Christ’s anointing as a prophet. And according to the Catechism, your prophecy is simply to confess his name. Yes, but there’s more, there’s more to your being a prophet. So my sermon series for the next six weeks is on prophecy, and what prophecy means, and how prophecy is for all of you.

Prophecy is not unique to Christianity. It takes different forms in different cultures and religions. It is often equated with predicting the future, but that’s just one part of it. Prophets are often called Seers, but Biblical prophets are more like Speakers. In Biblical prophecy the future is not fated, as with the Greeks. The Biblical future is dependent on our choices now, so the burden of prophecy is to tell the truth about the present, to name the truth about the present reality instead of avoiding or denying it, so that we can make right choices in the exercise our human freedom.

In some religions, a prophet is a human oracle, a mouthpiece of destiny or of the gods. In Islam, the prophet recites the message of Allah word for word, taking dictation from the angel. But in the Bible, the prophecies are often conversational, God and the prophet having conversations, so that the prophets’ personalities come into their prophecies.

A Biblical prophet is more than a mouthpiece, and is even a partner with God’s Holy Spirit in the Word of God. That’s true whether their prophecies are simply spoken, like Elijah’s, or written as literature, like the Major Prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah and the Minor Prophets Amos and Obadiah. The prophets of the Bible have some say in the Word of God, because their say-so serves whatever God is saying.

What prophecy shares in all religions is that its information is privileged. Its information comes from beyond the normal capacities of intelligence, its truth goes past the normal limitations of reason, and its visions go beyond the normal boundaries of human experience, and yet it always means to address our intelligence and speak to our reason and make claims on our experience.

Prophecy assumes a privilege and standing and even authority that cannot be proven from within our boundaries and limitations. So human reason and experience may well doubt the claims of prophecy and deny its privilege. When I first moved to Hoboken, in 1991, an old evangelist named Mr. Ulfilas Shah solemnly told me that God had told him that I was to be the missionary to the Hindus of New Jersey. I told him, Sorry, but God had not told me that. He did beg my pardon.

Because prophecy is from beyond the boundary, there is always some mystery in it, even if just a little. How open are you to mystery? How much mystery do you want in your life? I don’t mean mysteries as puzzles waiting for solutions given sufficient clues and right deductions. I mean the magnificent mysteries of the universe, the mystery of light, the mystery of life, the mysteries that human reason embraces but cannot contain, mysteries inspiring us to joyful wonder and humility.

How much mystery, how much transcendence do you want in your life? And do you want that transcendence to be empty, and the mystery formless and vague? If you are open to that transcendent mystery having form and shape and color and meaning, then you can be open to prophecy, and you can even aspire to being the minor prophet that you were anointed to be.

Some of the mysteries of prophecy are prosaic, like, what was going on in that story from our Epistle reading, Acts 19? What were those twelve Christians doing when they spoke in tongues and prophesied? We will never know for certain, the author does not explain it. We can guess with some confidence by consulting other passages, but interpretations differ.

One faulty but popular interpretation teaches a second baptism after water baptism, a baptism of the spirit that results in speaking in tongues. But Jesus did not speak in tongues when the Holy Spirit baptized him. When the Ethiopian eunuch got  baptized, the manifestation of the Holy Spirit in him was his joy as he rode home in his chariot. When the Philippian jailer got baptized he washed St. Paul and served him dinner. A variety of manifestations all point to one invisible reality, which is God coming into the world as the Holy Spirit entering into ordinary people to dwell in you and inspire you. Transcendence inside you.

In a few minutes four of you will be standing before us to be recognized as new members of this church. You each have your reasons for doing this, but these reasons you have in common: you are publicly identifying as a Christian, you are stepping up to share some responsibility for this congregation, and you are publicly declaring some measure of allegiance to Jesus Christ. We will anoint you with oil, to remind you of the anointing of your baptism, which marked you as a member of Christ, and we anoint you to suggest the invisible transcendence of what you are standing up for.

Just by your standing before us you confess the name of Jesus Christ, which, according to the Catechism, is the beginning of your prophecy. So today I am calling you minor prophets. Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Jack, Margaret, Ann, Philip. And beyond that minimum what shall your particular prophecies be? What will you say? What kind of things will you say? If you have been given the Holy Spirit of God, then you have a say in what God says, so how will what you say serve what God says?

Human beings are the creatures who speak. Among all the creatures of creation, human beings are the ones who talk voluminously and of necessity. Christian doctrine teaches that this is because, among the creatures, we are the images of God. We speak because God spoke. So your speech, your use of words, your writing, is inherently sacred, no matter what you’re speaking of, from pots and pans to prophecies.

And this too, we are also the creative ones among the creatures, because we are the images of the Creator. And the way that God created was by God’s speech. God shaped and formed the world not with the hands of angels or giants but simply by speaking it into shape.

Your prophecy is your having a say in the shaping of the new creation. It’s not that you see the future but that you have a say in the future of the world. You have a say in the forming of God’s sovereignty, by the truths you tell about the world, by the interpretations you espouse, by the reports you make, you help to create the future by your speech and how you talk.

You are a Christian for the world, not only for the church. Your access to transcendence is your gift to open up the world that is closed in on itself. The truths that you tell you help people make their choices. By the stories you tell and your conversation you keep the world open to joy and hope and faith and love.

And you are prophetic about your self, you tell the mysterious truth about yourself. You believe it and confess it, that you are known by name by God. That God has chosen to inhabit you. Reason cannot prove it, it takes prophetic speech to say such a thing about yourself, that God has said to you, Phil, Margaret, Ann, Jack, you are my Child, my Beloved, with you I am well pleased. The very beginning of your prophecy is to affirm that you yourself are loved by God.

Copyright © 2018 by Daniel Meeter, all rights reserved.