Monday, March 13, 2017

Holy, Holy, Holy!

Recently I was reading an article on an evangelical website about a street preacher in Bristol, England who had been arrested for 'preaching the Gospel.'   Eventually there was a trial and he was forbidden to go back to the same place and spread the word.    That's alarming.   Is it true though?   Was he really arrested for preaching the Gospel?   I'm not so sure.  After reading many other articles it became apparent that it wasn't what he was doing as much as how he was doing it.  He would purposely seek areas were the people he was condemning frequented.   His speech was often interlaced with disparaging remarks and hateful rhetoric, all the while declaring that if he received hate, well that's what Jesus said we'd receive, right?  It began to remind me of some of those sects that we have/had in America.   (The branch Davidians, West Boro Baptist, etc)

In today's reading we see something that reminds us that this is not the way the Gospel goes.  Yes, truth must be shared and no, we should not be door mats that everyone can walk on.   However, Jesus changes the tone of Leviticus 19:2 to bring out something very important for us:

Be holy, for I, the Lord your God, am holy Leviticus 19:2 NAB
Be merciful, just as [also] your Father is merciful. Luke 6:36 NAB

That's a very subtle shift in phrase that makes a huge difference in understanding.   Jesus reminds us that to be like God, to be made in His image, is to be merciful. It's not enough to just emulate God in action our very heart has to change.  We have to have that internal conversion,  not just an external configuration to rules and regulations.  

Last night I spent a few hours re-reading the Letter to the Hebrews.  In what I consider one of the greatest treatise on apologetics ever written, the author let's us know that this is exactly what the new covenant is about.  Where the old covenant simply configured a people on the outside to look like God's people, Jesus established a new one that changes the heart itself.  When we are changed, when we are filled with God on the inside, when our hearts realize what God has done for us and how little we deserved it... how then can we turn and berate others for being unworthy as well?  It reminds me of the parable of the servant who was forgiven of a very large debt and immediately upon his release demanded and refused to forgive someone who owed him far less.  That's not to say we shouldn't speak the truth, God forbid!  It means we must do so in love.. for the good of the other.. and to show them in our words, actions, and thoughts the merciful love of the Father.

That's what Confession is all about.  If we truly understood this Sacrament of God's mercy and love we'd be running to it.  The lines would extend outside the Sanctuary and into the streets.  Instead we find less people going and even fewer who believe they should need it.   It's not a have to.. it should be a want to.   In the confessional we encounter Christ in all his glory.  In Hebrew there was no word for 'very'.  Instead they repeated a word to indicate it's degree.   Amen, Amen meant this is really the truth.  When describing Christ in his glory they would say 'holy, holy, holy.'   That is Holiness in perfection.   That's who is there... but taking Jesus own queue we can also see that in the confessional we can describe our King, our Lord, as 'mercy, mercy, mercy."

His servant and yours,

"He must increase, I must decrease."