Aliens And Strangers

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Illegal aliens and border walls and immigration are currently big topics in the US. They are in the Bible, too.

Our church recently started doing a different kind of “read the Bible together” project. Kind of funny because it’s a lot like an old program we did under a former pastor, which he called Table Talk. I guess that was more about discussion, and this go around is more about journaling. But the concept is the same: read a given passage and interact with it.

A few of this week’s passages got me thinking about being alienated. One gives the account of a woman who had a disease of some kind that none of the doctors of the day could cure. It cause her to hemorrhage, which also meant, according to Mosaic law, that she was “unclean” and not permitted to go into the temple. She was as good as an unbelieving Gentile. Alienated. Not welcome. Cut off from God.

Another alienated person we read about this week was the woman who heard Jesus was dining with a certain Pharisee, and went to weep over His feet. Why would she do that? The Pharisee was condemning in his thoughts: if Jesus knew what kind of person that woman was, He wouldn’t let her touch Him. Actually, no, Jesus did know all about her and identified her tears, her worship as her love because her sins were forgiven. She had been alienated, and the Pharisee wanted to keep her in that state of isolation. Not Jesus.

Another one, this a parable Jesus told. A guy wanted to put on a feast, so he sent out the invites. When the day arrived, he sent servants to tell all the people the feast was ready and to come. No, they each said; somethings more important and I can’t make it. Get people off the street, then, the host said. We did and there are still empty places at the table, the servants answered. Then, get people who are outside the city—the place reserved for the alienated, like lepers and unbelieving Gentiles.

Finally, a passage from Ephesians:

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit. (Ephesians 2:19-22)

I was an alien, a stranger. But God brought me near, made me a citizen. More than that, He gave each of us who believe in Jesus, a role to play. We’re a piece of the puzzle, a stone in the building, forming a new temple.

Once the aliens could not go into the temple, now they are the temple. Once, the best a person could hope for was to be allowed into God’s presence. Now, God’s presence abides in each of His followers.

It’s quite the reversal—those who didn’t belong, are now official members of the kingdom.

How is this possible?

God tells us in Isaiah 55:

Let the wicked forsake his way
And the unrighteous man his thoughts;
And let him return to the LORD,
And He will have compassion on him,
And to our God,
For He will abundantly pardon.
“For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD.
“For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways
And My thoughts than your thoughts. (vv7-9)

We don’t by nature abundantly pardon. We don’t invite the outcast to our feast or let the unclean sully our garments. But God declares, He doesn’t think the way we do.

Good thing, because in fact we are all aliens and strangers, shut out from God’s presence until we, too, fall at Jesus’s feet and cry for mercy and forgiveness. Our God who doesn’t see things the way we do, will then abundantly pardon, giving us citizenship and a place at His table.

Published in: on January 24, 2019 at 5:41 pm  Comments Off on Aliens And Strangers  
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Peace And Blue Christmas

christmas-background-2-1408232-mMy church is holding a special service to address the needs of those who enter the Christmas season with heavy hearts. I understand that our culture can project unrealistic expectations which may cause some to be aware more keenly that they will never have a Hallmark Christmas.

The truth is, we’re all in that predicament. I mean which of us has 2.5 perfect children? 😉

Because we live in an imperfect world with other imperfect humans, we have to expect conflict and things not going our way. We have to expect some sadness, maybe loneliness, and disappointment.

Grown children don’t visit enough or call as often as their parents wish. Grown children watch their parents grow feeble and die, and wish they had called more or visited more.

We have wonderful things to enjoy in this world—it really is a beautiful, majestic place—and yet there are atheist sponsored billboards with a message about children wishing they didn’t have to go to church. And there are actual children wishing they didn’t have to go to church. I was one of those more often than I like to admit.

We have a host of people who will be dissatisfied with their Christmas celebration and another host dissatisfied that their Christmas break isn’t longer or that they have to wait 364 days before Christmas rolls around again.

Blue. It’s more a wonder that we aren’t all blue and in need of a special service teaching us how to get through this merry season. The thing is, the more we talk about how understandable it is that some are sad or lonely or needy or discouraged, and Merry Christmas is hard for them, the more I think we’re creating blue Christmas.

Christmas, after all, isn’t supposed to be a celebration of family—as wonderful as family is—or a season of bright lights and evergreen trees, of carols and bells, of eggnog and candy canes. All those are fun, beautiful, tasty. Traditions are great! But none of those things are what Christmas is about.

Or, let’s say, it’s not what Christmas has to be. For the Christian, Christmas is a day that gives us a chance to celebrate Christ’s first coming. If you think about it, there has never been anything so long anticipated than Christ’s coming.

So celebrate we should! I mean, the celebration of a follower of Jesus Christ should be filled with hilarity.

The long-expectant One came, as God promised. He who brought healing and hope and restoration made it here! It’s a done deal—the great move to abolish all the reasons for a blue Christmas has happened in the most unexpected, surprising way imaginable.

And by coming once, He gives us assurance that He will come again, as He said.

The peace, then, which we all can enjoy is that found only in the Prince of Peace. He is our peace.

So here’s what that means. Jews, Gentiles, men, women, those with an eastern thought pattern and those with a western one—we believers in Jesus Christ have been reconciled with God and now are part of His family. We have a new relationship with God, we’ve been renewed ourselves, and we have this new connection with all other believers.

Here’s how Paul explains it:

Now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility . . . So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. (Eph. 2: 13-14; 19-22, ESV, emphasis added)

So no matter what our individual external circumstances look like, we’re not alone, we have a forever family, we have a unique unity and purpose, we belong and are secure—all because Christ is our peace, the Christ who came as a child to the declaration of those angels—peace among men with whom He is pleased.

I’d say that’s cause for a Merry Christmas!