Category Archives: creation
In the beginning
God, who is Trinity, eternally exists as family, relationship, community, love. The dance of Trinitarian love, undulating gently, continuously, and altruistically between Abba, Beloved Son, and Paraclete – each concerned only with blessing the Other – each without a selfish thought – has no beginning and will have no end.
So abundant is this perfect love that it spills over, runs over, like an overflowing cup, like a floodtide uncontained, cascading grace; it cannot help but create: Quarks and quasars, pebbles and galaxies, amoeba and elephant, snowflake and mountain, diaspore and sunflower, kangaroo-rat and human – everything affecting everything – all intertwined – all connected in the intricate web of life, and therefore, fragile, dependent on the stewarding care of beings with freewill.
But all is not well.
Principalities and powers, spiritually wicked beings, rule the Empires. Empires always oppress, exploit, kill, and destroy with their economic inequality, wars, pollution, national exceptionalism, racism, and disregard for the indigenous.
A nation built on stolen land by slave labor, and maintained by violence, war, corruption, and manipulation, while bowing to Mammon, Mars, and Aphrodite, and making excuses for leaders without a shred of spiritual fruit, cannot legitimately be called “the land of the free,” much less, a Christian nation. My friend Rich Villodas tweeted: “The biggest obstacle to Christian witness in the US is not secularism, but a Christianity unashamedly shaped by the flag, the gun, and the dollar.”
Nevertheless, the gentle dance of creative grace goes on.
God, whose love necessitates vulnerability, even to Calvary, forgives in the face of hatred, turns cheek in the face of violence, serves in the face of power, gives in response to greed, and loves into the abyss of sin – all diametrically opposite of Empire.
A divine exchange is offered: life for death; forgiveness for regret; welcome for rejection; healing for brokenness; love for hatred.
God did not sit down at a drafting table and design a stagnant universe with His slide-rule and protractor. Vibrant, fluid, moving, flowing, surprising, joyous, beautiful, on-going creation courses from the overflow of the Trinitarian love-dance.
Ethereal music of the spheres invites us – yes, us – broken us – weak us – you and me – to join the divine dance, to create with God. Whether we create a garden or a smile on the lips of a homeless beggar, regardless of whether our divinely inspired creativity produces a symphony or a cupcake, when we join the Dance of Love, God is very pleased.
Reflecting on Daniel chapter 3 and Romans 12:1: When I offer myself fully, placing spirit, soul, body – all that I am — as a living sacrifice, the divine consuming fire falls. Only the cords and chains that held me captive burn up, and the fire which is God, warms, soothes, and enlightens my whole being like a Yule blaze during a blizzard. I feel only His love and care, and I emerge, not smelling of smoke, but instead permeated with the most beautiful fragrance of God.
As I sit reading a bit of SørenKierkegaard, little girls are happily playing next door. If there is anything sweeter than the laughter and squeals of tiny persons sliding down a slip-n-slide on a summer’s day, I can’t think of what it might be.
From whence comes the delight of a child? Surely, from love.
But, from whence comes love? Love has but one source – love comes from the God who is in essence love.
By “love,” I mean agápe, not the narcissism some label love, and not even the éros, philía, or storgē that, although genuine, are subordinate. The physical expression of love, the pleasure of beauty (éros) can be good, even if corrupted by marking departments. Family love (storgē) connects spouses, parents, children and siblings and is the backbone of civilization. Deep abiding friendships (philía) result in self-sacrificial acts of courage. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
At some level, all real love comes from God, but here I speak of agápe, which is only found fully and completely and perfectly in one place. Its source is the trinitarian God who by very nature isagápe. Its perfect manifestation is Jesus. Jesus’ life, teachings, actions, miracles, and, supremely, enemy-forgiving love on the cross, showed the world that which it had not known previously – agápe. Agápe is perfect, divine, cruciform, unending, eternal, unconditional, self-sacrificing, enemy-forgiving, all-inclusive, nonviolent altruism.
No parent, no matter how supportive and altruistic, can impart love in a child. No person can impart or create love in any other person. That the child’s heart filled with love is a reflection of the Imago Dei.
Love sees all things. We are told that love is blind. Nonsense. No one sees more clearly than the stoic parent of an alcoholic. Blind love is selfish love. Blind love sees the other as one to be acted upon, a project more than a person. The other exists only that we might change, fix, or have the satisfaction of loving. Blind love enables. It leaves the addict to die while feeling the self-righteousness of chosen martyrdom. True love sees with crystal clarity. It seeks what is truly best for the other. It is never codependent.
Love bears all things. Kierkegaard points out that just as the person of strong robust physical health can eat and digest a wide variety of foods, so the person inundated with God’s love is able to “stomach” the idiosyncrasies and irritations of the other. The one inundated with God’s love knows at the core of her soul that she is the beloved of God and nothing can take that away. Her own love is not dependent on the other. She sees the hidden love, the Imago Dei, in the other and hardly notices the peculiarities.
Love hopes all things. Believing that love is there in the heart of the other, regardless of how rebellious, callous, or unthankful the other may be, is what causes us to look with joyous anticipation for that time when the prodigal will return. It is the father’s love. It knows that Omnia Vincit Amoris not sentimental claptrap.
Love endures all things. Indeed, it is able to endure whatever comes with the imperfect beloved in a fallen world because it knows that under the imperfections, transgressions, and damage that cloud it from sight, love, God’s love, is there. That is why love never fails.
The Lord Jesus is my Shepherd. (Psalm 23)
The Lord Jesus Christ is the Good and Beautiful Shepherd. (see John 10)
His sheep follow him.
As I was following Him around 45 years ago, He called me to be a pastor-teacher, to feed His sheep.
Like Peter’s, my love is far from perfect. (see John 21)
Do you love (ἀγάπη agápē) me?
Lord, I love (φιλία philía) you.
Feed my lambs.
Tend my sheep.
The final time: Do you love (φιλία philía) me?
If that’s all you can muster, I’ll work with it:
Feed my sheep.
Honestly, my heart is too often like a dried, shriveled, cracked, stiff, worthless old wineskin, incapable of holding any wine. I love God. I love Jesus. I love people, especially those who are broken and hurting, but my heart is incapable of loving unconditionally.
Nevertheless, just as Jesus healed the man with the withered hand in the synagogue (see Mark 3), telling him to stretch it out, so, I pray He will touch my withered heart and stretch and heal and transform it into a supple bladder that He can safely fill continuously with the new wine of His Spirit.
The only reason I can think of as to why God would want me to feed His sheep is because He chooses the weak and foolish things, the people that are big zeroes, to confound those wise in their own eyes.
So, in spite of myself, I am a shepherd.
No, Jesus is the shepherd.
I’m more like a sheepdog.
We once had an Old McDonald type farm in Colorado with horses, chickens, dogs, cats, goats, sheep, a duck, and great-horned owls. Coyotes threatened the sheep. Sheep are defenseless – they can’t run fast to get away, and they have no ability to fight back. So, we were advised to get a sheep dog.
That’s when David Dog entered our family – a huge, white Great Pyrenees who thought he was one of the family. I’m told that if you take a Great Pyrenees puppy and put it with the ewes and lambs, it will nurse from a ewe and grow up thinking she or he is a sheep, but with a strong canine instinct to protect the flock. Now, we didn’t do that. My wife and daughter loved on David Dog and all he wanted was to live in the house. But the other way theoretically works.
I sometimes think of myself as a David Dog. We apprentices only have one Master. We sheep only have one Shepherd. We disciples only have one Lord. We created beings only have one God. We all have different roles in the flock/family/kingdom of God. No role is more important than any other. There’s no hierarchy, no clergy-laity division. The way up is down. The greatest is the servant of all, the one who washes feet.
But God has called me to be a pastor-teacher. Not a CEO. Not a fund-raiser. Not chief of marketing. My calling, my assignment from God, is to spiritually protect the people of God, pray for the people of God, and teach the people of God, pointing them continuously to the Shepherd, leading them past myself into His loving arms.
And I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding. (Jeremiah 3:15)
Peter (Larry), do you love Me, even imperfectly?
Feed My sheep.
Greek has four words translated “love” in English. The two used in John 21 are (ἀγάπη agápē), which means perfect, divine, unconditional, cruciform, self-sacrificing, enemy-forgiving love, and (φιλία philía), which means deep friendship, brotherly or sisterly love.
I Corinthians 1:27-29
“LORD” here is YHWH
Quotations are from the ESV Text Edition® (2016).The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®) copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®) is adapted from the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. All rights reserved.
The resurrection narrative in John chapter 20 gives us a picture of our common humanity.
Mary of Magdala is filled with grief, sorrow, heartbreak, mourning and angst.
The disciples are filled with fear. Huddled behind locked doors, they dread the anticipation that they are next in line for torture and death. They are terrified.
Thomas, notoriously, is filled with doubt, skepticism.
I cannot fault any of them. I know the crushing, seemingly unending, heartache of bereavement. Crippling fear and anxiety have plagued me most of my life. At times, I have doubted everything – God, my own existence – everything.
To one degree or another, fear, doubt, and sorrow are common to all of us.
However, for a human to live in perpetual grief, unrelenting fear, or continuous existential agnosticism, is emotional torture. A broken spirit, who can bear?
Then comes Jesus.
He speaks her name: “Mary!” Inside her, hope leaps to life. Mourning and grief dissolve. Joy floods her heart; she clings tightly to Him as if to say, “You’ll never get away from me again!”
He greets His apprentices. “Shalom!” Perfect, altruistic, divine, self-sacrificial, enemy-forgiving, unconditional, agapé cruciform love fills the room. He breathes into them. Perfect love casts our fear.
He welcomes Thomas: “Touch me.” Faith saturates his soul. On his face, he confesses the deity of Christ. Doubt is not the opposite of faith – it is a healthy sign of a thinking mind. Refusal to believe in spite of evidence is the opposite of faith. Once Thomas had evidence, he confessed Jesus and Lord and God.
He speaks; He breathes; He touches.
He imparts faith, hope, and love to loved ones in doubt, grief and fear.
Faith, hope, love – three unending, abiding, eternal things.
The grace of faith dispels doubt.
The grace of hope dispels grief.
The grace of love dispels fear.