Sunday, October 31, 2010

IPMN: questions we have been avoiding?

During the early years of the Holocaust, when Jews were attempting to find safety in other countries, rejection and tragedy occurred over and over. At least two ships filled with fleeing refuges were turned aside by many countries including the United States. The ship, the St Louis, returned to Europe where “only France, Great Britain, Belgium and the Netherlands” would receive them. As Germany conquered three of those countries the Jewish refuges fell, once again, into Nazis hands. Another ship, the Struma, loaded with Romanian Jews was refused entry into a Palestine port by the British. In the end the ship sank and only two people survived.[1] (Picture: Jewish refugees aboard the SS St. Louis look out through the portholes of the ship while docked in the port of Havana.)

By 1947 and 48, many Europeans and Americans understood with maddening clarity the great evil of the Nazis. Using a lie that German citizens were in harms way because of the Jews the Nazis attempted to murder all Jewish people. Insisting that the Jews were the cause of all their troubles they perpetrated the Holocaust.

But still some mainline church people of the United States, who know that Jewish people, persecuted for too many years, need safety, believe the State of Israel should just disappear. Yes, they do suggest that this should happen for the safety of American citizens. They suggest that if Israel would just disappear and/or America would stop supporting her, all radical Arab terrorism would cease.

And, yes this is the position of at least some members of the Israel/Palestine Mission Network of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)!

There is an article at the on-line magazine, The Daily Beast, entitled “Does Israel Make Us Safer” by Thaddeus Russell. The article was placed on the IPMN Facebook site by Rev. John Morgan, who was an IPMN representative in 2009. While it wasn’t IPMN who posted the article they state: “Thanks for posting this-asks questions we have been avoiding.” And Noushin Framke chair of the IPMN’s communication working group clicks that she likes the article.

The article’s main idea is that Arab terrorists have never attacked the United States or its citizens for any other reason then the fact that the United States supports Israel. The plea is that we should quit supporting Israel for the safety of the citizens of the United States.

The article starts by explaining that historically some of President Truman’s advisers tried to discourage him from helping the newly emerging Jewish State:

They argued that if the United States helped to set up an independent Jewish nation it would provoke terrorist attacks on Americans and inaugurate an endless war between Arabs and Jews. “There are 30 million Arabs on one side and about 600,000 Jews on the other,” Forrestal told those in the administration who favored recognizing Israel. “Why don’t you face up to the realities?”
At least the author admits that historically it was David against Goliath. The author also writes:

The history of Israel and its relationship with the U.S. is infinitely complex, but there’s one damning fact that’s ignored as often as The Question: There was not a single act of Arab terrorism against Americans before 1968, when the U.S. became the chief supplier of military equipment and economic aid to Israel. In light of this fact, it’s difficult to credibly sustain the argument that Arab terrorism is spawned by Islam’s alleged promotion of violence and antipathy toward American culture or by a “natural” Arab anti-Semitism.
It also suggests that no matter what policies Israel enacts to protect itself—even a withdrawal from the occupied territories or a two-state “solution”—it must be a perpetual wartime state.

But it is a sinful anti-Semitism which drives many terrorist groups. The author continues:

…some 15,000 Israelis and nearly 5,000 Americans have been killed by Arabs opposed to the existence of Israel. Not one of those Israelis would have died had they lived in New York or Los Angeles, and it is reasonable to argue that many more Americans would be alive today had the United States never given aid to Israel.

Citing the death of Senator Robert Kennedy by Sirhan Sirhan and the attack promoted by Ben Laden, Russell writes:

This evidence, these arguments, or even The Question itself will never move those who believe—for religious, political, or emotional reasons—that a Jewish state must exist in the Middle East. They will not change the minds of Israelis who would rather live in perpetual war than leave the land they say belongs to them. But they might very well convince Americans, and even some Jews, to no longer participate in what now is clearly an act of self-destruction.

And evidently the IPMN, or those communicating for the IPMN, agree with this assessment, let all the Jewish people in Israel be exiled or destroyed, and then the citizens of the United States will be safe?

Insisting that the Jews were the cause of all their troubles they perpetrated the Holocaust ….

[1] For the complete story of those who perished and those non-Jewish people who helped see “Holocaust: an end to innocence,” by Seymour Rossel. See also and many, many other articles on the web.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Speaking of the dead ...

Sunday is All Hollow’s Eve; Monday is the Feast of All Saints. Although lately a lot of good Bible studies and commentaries that speak of a renewed heaven and earth have been published, still there is that time of being absent from the body and present with the Lord. As Paul stated:

For to me to live is Christ and to die is gain. But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose. But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better; yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake. (Phil 1:21-24)
Richard Wurmbrand, the Lutheran pastor who suffered many years in communist prisons, tells the story of several prisoners gathering for communion. Since one, who was of an Orthodox Church, insisted that the communion must be over the bones of a saint they celebrated communion over the dying body of one of the saints in that prison.

And that is often what belonging to Jesus is about-always with the Lord, always in communion with the saints, always relating to the suffering of Christ and his people. And that is also what death and heaven are about for Christians. Death and heaven, they are about Jesus. Nothing, not even death “will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Jesus Christ our Lord. (Rom 8:39)”

In Revelation the dead are called blessed. The text states, “And I heard another voice from heaven, saying write ‘blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.’” The Holy Spirit confirms the words with the promise of rest and the redemption of not only the saints but of their work on earth. “Their deeds follow with them. (Revelation 14:13)"

Friday, October 29, 2010

The Israel/Palestine Mission Network is boycotting Caterpillar

I wrote several days ago about the Israel/Palestine Mission Network of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) joining the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement. I mentioned that although the beginning of their statement states they are first boycotting products sold in the Israeli settlements they joined the whole movement which includes an intellectual boycott of Israeli universities, publications and professors.

Now they are boycotting Caterpillar, something the 219th General Assembly did not do. On their Facebook page they are linked to a site titled End the Occupation. The page has a sub-title of “Take Action: Help Stop Delivery of CAT Bulldozers to Israel.” With their link they have written:

Israel Palestine Mission Network Please sign this petition to stop Caterpillar by clicking item #1. You can see IPMN signed as an organization in item #2.

[On that page it states]:Here’s what you can do to make sure that the United States does not allow the delivery of these Caterpillar bulldozers to Israel, and to advance our boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) campaign against Caterpillar:

This is a never-ending story. It is as though the IPMN has no regard for fellow Presbyterians, General Assembly leadership, fair information to all of their readers, or even for peace in the Middle East. Why do I write the latter? Today, although the IPMN has information coming in on their news feeds on their web page that tells horrendous tales about what is happening to Israel as well as the Palestinians, on their Facebook page they have chosen to only feature what they perceive to be wrong with Israel or harmful to the Palestinians.

While it is true that since they only receive on their web page feeds from Haaretz.Com, a Jewish news paper that is to the left, and other news sources that are alternative news sources, still some actions against Israel and Jewish people do seep in. But they do not show up on the IPMN Facebook page. This onesidiness combined with failure to adhere to the guidance of the General Assembly does not make for peace anywhere and it is certainly dishonest.

Today one of the headlines in Haaretz was this, “Islamic Jihad leader: Israel must be wiped out of existence.” This one was also on the IPMN news feed, Obama: Packages containing explosives addressed to Jewish organizations in Chicago. None of this shows up on the IPMN Facebook page and undoubtedly the reason the first one, as a type, does not is because it contradicts IPMN's claims that Israel does not need to defend herself against terrorism.

The second headline, as a type, does not show up on their Facebook page because it contradicts the IPMN’s implied position that Jewish people no longer need to fear for their security. Yet everywhere in an anti-Semitic world it is very clear that the Jewish people need a Jewish state as an anchor for their security even when they do not live there.

The IPMN leaders have thrown themselves fully into the cauldron of the BDS movement. As a Presbyterian organization of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) they will not stop until leadership insists that they must. As I have written before, goose-stepping is blowing in the Presbyterian air.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A good day for fishing

It may be a good day for fishing where you live. I think it will be here. This is fun. If you don’t recognize the song which is in Dutch, it is “There is Power in the Blood.” (Picture by Stephen Larson)

Would you be free from the burden of sin?
There’s power in the blood, power in the blood;
Would you o’er evil a victory win?
There’s wonderful power in the blood.


There is power, power, wonder working power
In the blood of the Lamb;
There is power, power, wonder working power
In the precious blood of the Lamb.

Would you be free from your passion and pride?
There’s power in the blood, power in the blood;
Come for a cleansing to Calvary’s tide;
There’s wonderful power in the blood.


Would you be whiter, much whiter than snow?
There’s power in the blood, power in the blood;
Sin stains are lost in its life giving flow.
There’s wonderful power in the blood.


Would you do service for Jesus your King?
There’s power in the blood, power in the blood;
Would you live daily His praises to sing?
There’s wonderful power in the blood.

"Knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with the precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ. For he was foreknown before the foundation of the world, but has appeared in these last times for the sake of you who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God. (1 Peter 1:18-21)"

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Benny Morris, his book "One State, Two States" and the Israel/Palestine Mission Network

I have just finished reading Benny Morris’ book One State, Two States: Resolving the Israel/Palestine Conflict. Unlike most of Morris’s books, this is a small book, only 240 pages. It covers the history of the various proposals and attitudes by both the Zionist Movement and the Palestinian Nationalists concerning the many possibilities of statehood for both Israelis and the Palestinians.

There isn’t a group or an idea that Morris misses starting around 1890. The book was published in 2009 and the history reaches into 2008 including President Clinton’s attempts to help the Palestinians and Israelis reach a peace settlement. This is a complex history of the various attempts to partition the Holy Land into two independent states. Both sides in the debacle receive fair treatment by the author. (Morris is often quoted by advocates for both Israel and Palestinians.)

Morris, a Jewish historian, is honest enough to write that the early Zionists were working toward a state that would encompass the whole of Palestine. He is a good enough historian to point out that once the Holocaust began in Germany they realized they needed to let go of their dream and settle for a partitioned Palestine.

Morris also points out that the Palestinians have never let go of their insistence that they own all of Palestine and that all Jews who did not descend from the Jewish peoples who lived there before 1917 should depart. When Palestinians refer to the occupation they mean all of the country from the Mediterranean to Jordan. And this is the reason I am writing this post. It is not a book review, although it is a very good book and I may write one later, but I kept picking up catch words from the Palestinian side that reminded me of the Israel/Palestine Mission Network of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). And occupation was one of those words.

I have never heard the IPMN clarify whether they are referring to all of Palestine or the Palestinian territories such as Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem when they write about the occupation? And since IPMN often link to articles about one state for Palestine which would of course remove any sign of a Jewish haven there, are they advocating for a one state solution?

Morris links a one state solution to the now constant refrain of apartheid. Referring, in a footnote to journalist, Sever Plutzker and his article “Who Favors a Partition Plan?”, he explains that apartheid is now the key word among activist because:
Talk of ‘apartheid’ with its stress on human rights and their absence, should lead, eventually, to ameliorating the situation of the oppressed within the geopolitical framework. Plutzker points out that this shift of emphasis corresponds to the shift among Palestinians from advocacy of a two-state solution to advocacy of one-statism; talking of ‘apartheid serves the “one state” purpose. (n 1 page 203-4.)
Another thought and reaction I had, as I read Morris’ book was that on the IPMN’s Facebook page they are always linking to awful articles on Israel but nothing truly bad about say, Hamas, or Hezbollah, etc. So my thought is do they think Hamas and other terrorist groups are legitimate?

Morris toward the end of his book, because it is a history, written in the sequence of events, writes about Hamas. He writes about their covenant.

The covenant defines the ongoing struggle as directed against “the Jews,” “they who have received the scriptures,” and defines them, in the Qur’an’s terminology, as “smitten with vileness wheresoever they are found … because they … slew the prophets,” a reference to the killing of Jesus Christ. The Hamas is deeply, essentially anti-Semitic. “Our struggle against the Jews,” states the covenant, “is very great and very serious … The Prophet … has said: ‘The Day of Judgment will not come about until Moslems fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones will say O Moslems, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him.’” Citing the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” the Covenant charges the Jews, “with their money … took control of the world media, news agencies, the press, publishing houses, broadcasting stations … With their money they stirred revolutions in various parts of the world … they were behind the French Revolution …
There is much, much more including blaming the Jews for starting communism and World War II. So why is this kind of thinking ignored by IPMN? Now they have moved on to connect to the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement while apparently failing to understand the connection between this movement and the radical outlook of Hamas and other terrorist groups in the Middle East.

This is the introduction to the Israel/Palestine Mission Network's beginning involvement with the BDS movement. They have linked to a video on their Facebook page with this statement, “The Philly BDS Coalition dances into action in a local grocery store chain to push them to deshelve Sabra and Tribe of Hummus; both brands support Israeli war crimes. This marks the launch of our campaign:"

The Co-op I shop at was attempting to do the same. They did not do it, in fact, they changed their whole policy on boycotts because of the effort. Here is the video IPMN linked too in the name of Presbyterians:

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Israel/Palestine Mission Network and the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions Movement: ignoring PC(U.S.A.) policy

I am a member of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) but first of all I am a Christian. I belong to Jesus. That means in all things I must try to be fair and honest. That means I must love others. All others, as Jesus loved me. That means I must love the Palestinians of the Palestinian territories and those who are citizens of the State of Israel. And I must love the Jewish people of the State of Israel. And that is why I am outraged at the Israel/Palestine Mission Network of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). And I am outraged at my denomination that will not rein in the IPMN.

The IPMN have in my and other Presbyterian names joined the Boycott Divestment Sanctions Movement which is a movement pushing against the whole State of Israel.

On the IPMN web site they have posted this Presbyterian Mission Network Joins BDS Movement. They begin the statement by suggesting that they will be boycotting products coming from Israeli settlements. But with the title and the end of their statement, they have, in fact, joined the whole BDS Movement which encourages not only the boycotting of products coming from Israel but also intellectual boycotts of published material and visiting professors.

The IPMN refers to The Amman Call but also to the Kairos Palestine: A Moment of Truth. The IPMN is a Presbyterian organization. The 219th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) voted against boycotting Israel. And they did not endorse the Kairos Palestine document but instead commended it for study. This was in part because of many objections by Presbyterians and others over its call for total divestment and boycotting of Israel.

IPMN constantly flaunts its supposed right to do whatever it pleases despite the fact it is a Presbyterian organization. It posted a video about Israel by a radical Palestinian and took ten days to remove it without apology. See The Israel/Palestine Mission Network posts a film put together by those espousing radical Islamic views of Israel. UP-date.

They produced a booklet, which accused the United States media of being controlled by the Jews and Israel. It also suggested that immigrants to Israel after World War II were not linked genetically to ancient Israel. See Were Holocaust victims linked genealogically to biblical Israel?

During the 219th GA they pushed a paper which stated that Jewish organizations in the United States had burned down a church and sent a package to the Presbyterian headquarters which possibly contained a bomb. Both were lies which IPMN later suggested was accidently left in their paper. They did not apologize. See I have no words: Carol Hylkema's answer to my e-mail also see An overture filled with fury: anti-Semitism again.

Recently on their Facebook page they have been linking to articles suggesting that there should be a one state solution to the Middle East problems, but that is not Presbyterian policy. It is time for the PCUSA to unlink from the Israel/Palestine Mission Network. Then with a great sigh of relief we can all try a little harder to love the other including both the Palestinians and the Israelis.

A friend just sent me this thought and I think it is a good suggestion: "With this public declaration of the IPMN joining the Israel-targeted international BDS movement, it might also seem timely and appropriate for the PCUSA's General Assembly Mission Council (GAMC) to remove the IPMN for the tax-exempt donation status that it currently enjoys with its numbered account status as a PCUSA Extra Commitment Opportunity (ECO) program budget line item under the control of the PCUSA treasurer."

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Dry grass, skulls & the Lord: for Sunday

It is raining a beautiful soft rain in Sacramento tonight. All of the dry plants and weeds in the garden, burned by the hot winds of fall, are ending their short lifespan with the gentle rain that usually comes toward the end of our autumn. Their dry presence reminds me of several verses in Isaiah:

A voice says “Call out.” Then he answered what shall I call out?” All flesh is grass, and all its loveliness is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades, when the breath of the lord blows upon it; surely the people are grass. The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever. (40:6-8)
I am also reminded of a purse my granddaughter, an artist, painted. I asked her why there were skulls on some of the flower stems. She answered, first, as many good artists would, that she thought skulls were beautiful. But then she said she was thinking of those verses in Isaiah about God blowing on the flowers and the death of people.

But there are amazing verses that come before these verses. They set hope before those rushing toward death. The text speaks of the good news coming to Jerusalem. The words speak of preparing the way before the coming of the Lord. This speaks of the coming incarnation of the eternal Son, Jesus Christ. It speaks of the Glory of the Lord. “Then the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all flesh will see it together; for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

And then the verses that follow 6-8, are full of God’s beautiful promises:
Behold the Lord God will come with might, with his arm ruling for him. Behold his reward is with him and his recompense before him. Like a shepherd he will tend his flock, in his arms he will gather the lambs and carry them in his bosom; he will gently lead the nursing ewes. (10-11)
After these two verses, like a great symphony, the text speaks to God’s glory and greatness until once again there is imagery of God blowing on humanity, but in this case rulers and judges will wither. But then, again the word turns to those that God is shepherding, and the text speaks of the Everlasting lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth who will give his people strength and power.

So the eternal God through the Son gifts the children with such a close connection to himself that there is nothing that stands between. United to Jesus we are gently led, carried and strengthened. That relationship to God is unique and totally his doing. Jesus Christ is Lord.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

What is progressive?

"...although I must preface that I only have a vague idea of what I'm talking about, doesn't the very term "progressive theology" describe a t...heology which is unbiblical? Since when did the meaning of the Bible change so quickly that we had to run to keep up? A Biblical theology will always be stationary, not "progressing" in whatever direction the current culture is pulling it. The very barest description of biblical theology possible is simply that it does not progress; it's like a stone pillar in the middle of a vegetable soup of ideas and feelings. It is what I (a Lutheran) can agree on with my grandmother (a Presbyterian), my friend (a Catholic priest), my other grandparents (Assemblies of God), my aunt (a Baptist) and any number of other christians, both in the present and going back through
history. (Melissa Anne Tregilgas)

The Church’s one foundation
Is Jesus Christ her Lord,
She is His new creation
By water and the Word.
From Heav’n He came and sought her
To be His holy bride;
With His own blood He bought her
And for her life He died.

She is from every nation,
Yet one o’er all the earth;
Her charter of salvation,
One Lord, one faith, one birth;
One holy Name she blesses,
Partakes one holy food,
And to one hope she presses,
With every grace endued.

The Church shall never perish!
Her dear Lord to defend,
To guide, sustain, and cherish,
Is with her to the end:
Though there be those who hate her,
And false sons in her pale,
Against both foe or traitor
She ever shall prevail.

Though with a scornful wonder
Men see her sore oppressed,
By schisms rent asunder,
By heresies distressed:
Yet saints their watch are keeping,
Their cry goes up, “How long?”
And soon the night of weeping
Shall be the morn of song!

’Mid toil and tribulation,
And tumult of her war,
She waits the consummation
Of peace forevermore;
Till, with the vision glorious,
Her longing eyes are blest,
And the great Church victorious
Shall be the Church at rest.

Yet she on earth hath union
With God the Three in One,
And mystic sweet communion
With those whose rest is won,
With all her sons and daughters
Who, by the Master’s hand
Led through the deathly waters,
Repose in Eden land.

O happy ones and holy!
Lord, give us grace that we
Like them, the meek and lowly,
On high may dwell with Thee:
There, past the border mountains,
Where in sweet vales the Bride
With Thee by living fountains
Forever shall abide!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Bruce Reyes-Chow: peace and division

A friend of mine recently wrote a comment on a blog that his “daughter’s gay college professor passed out a letter to her whole class proclaiming that those like [my friend] who oppose homosexuality essentially have no right to exist.”

He was answering another persons posting that suggested that Amendment 10A would help us live and let live. My friend wrote, “That’s what we have to look forward to in this future world of live-and-let-live: the rest of us will be continually branded as hatemongers until we surrender to every last demand of those on the other side. I think that some form of separation is probably the only logical path to the live-and-let-live scenario you envision.”

Studying in the gospel of Luke the last several weeks I have increasingly become interested in Jesus’ words about division and peace. After reading two different statements by past Moderator Bruce Reyes-Chow I have decided the words of Jesus on peace and divisions are immensely important.

Reyes-Chow’s statements are several months apart. I will begin with the latest, which is an interview first posted on Rev. Janet Edwards’ blog and then picked up by More Light Presbyterians. Both sites are advocating for the ordination of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons. In that interview Reyes-Chow sounds temperate and kind in his words. Edwards asks him: “What would you say to those Christians who have a different view on inclusion?”

Reyes-Chow’s answer is “What I often say is this: I hope folks who disagree with me will trust that I am seeking to discern the same mind of Christ as they are. We are all searching for God as our lives unfold. In the midst of our differences, we share a conviction that our relationship is built on God and our faith in Christ. I acknowledge that God is playing a role in the other person’s life.”

Next, Edwards asks Reyes-Chow “What can we do to foster dialogue and build bridges with people with different views on inclusion?”

Reyes-Chow gives several answers, including “We can appreciate where people are coming from, which is different from agreeing with them. We can agree that a win/lose approach has proven that it is not helpful.”

But that interview is linked to a speech he gave much earlier on proposition 8 in California. In that speech Chow stated, “This is a time when Christians around the world who will continue to push for justice must come out and stand, stand long and advocate the message of God to those Biblical literalists who have poisoned our understanding of marriage, sexuality and love."
And while he later insisted he did not aim that speech at Presbyterians, (Not even conservative ones), he recently stated in his article “An open call to Christian LGBTQ allies on NCOD:”

And let us make no mistake that one of the greatest perpetrators of the rhetoric, justification and execution of the spiritual and physical violence has been the church. I fully know and admit this as part of the reality of this family of people that I am part of.
So claiming a biblical position on the ordination of those who insist sin is not sin, who seek ordination without repentance, does place orthodox Christians in a troubling position in the eyes of the progressives. And the reason is clear. In many cases the Christian progressive is speaking with somewhat winsome and reconciling words to the orthodox, while to the secular community and other progressives they are making common cause against the orthodox with what would be, in any other case, called hate speech.

I have several observations after reading Luke 12: 49-52. This is Jesus’ statement, “I have come to cast fire upon the earth; and how I wish it were already kindled! But I have a baptism to undergo and how I am distressed until it is accomplished! Do you suppose I came to grant peace on earth? I tell you no; but rather division; …” Jesus goes on in this passage to speak of the family divisions that would occur because of him. This verse does appear in some ways to be a contradiction because Jesus does promise peace and he prays that his followers will be in unity.

But through the long history of the church she has been in battle both from forces within and forces without. And often, as today the forces within and without have joined together to assault her. But the real attack comes not from humanity but from spiritual powers of wickedness (Eph 6:12) which want to destroy her unity, purity and faithfulness. So what is Jesus saying?

His baptism and the fire are his death and resurrection and the divisions they cause because humanity must make choices either for him or against him. As Darrell L. Block says in his commentary on Luke:

This passage stands in contrast to other Lucan declarations about Jesus’ offering peace to humans (Luke 2:14; 7:50, 8:48; 10:5-6; Acts 10:36). But in these texts, peace comes to those who have responded (cf. Eph. 2:13-17, being tied to the offer of the message and thus contingent on a favorable response.) Without such response, division occurs. The peace that Jesus brings in his coming to earth is not universal, because some do not respond favorably to his offer. Jesus’ offer contains the choice between aligning with the kingdom and standing against it. One must take sides.”[1]

And what is the message that is either rejected or accepted? It is tied up with the baptism that Jesus speaks of. Here is what Bock writes about the message’s origin:

Thus the point of the metaphor is that Jesus faces a period of being uniquely inundated with God’s judgment, an allusion to rejection and persecution. Luke will later describe Jesus’ dying as ‘accursed’ not as an act from God against Jesus but by God through Jesus against sin (Luke 24: 44-47); Acts 5:30-31; 10: 30-43). And here lies the judgment’s uniqueness: God’s plan and the coming of the Spirit’s judging work of fire cannot occur until Jesus undergoes rejection and bears God’s judgment. Only then can Jesus begin to do much of what he came to do.[2]
Jesus work of saving humankind from their sin is his purpose. It does include creation but in order for that to be so it is focused on humanity and it brings division, and yet peace to those who receive forgiveness. So now to a later question that Reye-Chow directs, during the interview, to those in the church who are orthodox.

"And I ask them: If the PCUSA does change and we open ordination to LGBT people, is ordination so central to your faith that you will leave the PCUSA? Is this so central to how we are to love Jesus and how Jesus loves us? Is this is a Cross issue, a measure of what is most important to our faith in Christ?"

The answer isn’t really about whether one leaves or not. There is faithfulness in following Christ in obedience, whether it is in the midst of the proclamation of darkness or the proclamation of light. But yes, it is a “Cross” issue. Yes this is central to how we love Jesus. We are obedient and faithful to Jesus because he died for us.

Painful divisions will come when we reject the mercy of Jesus Christ.

In the video wait for Hector's speech. He finishes what I want to say here.

[1] Darrell L. Bock, Luke 9:51-24:53, Vol. 2 Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand rapids: B Baker Academic 1996) 1194-95.
[2] Ibid. 1194.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Tricia Dykers Koenig, "Because of Scripture and Theology": The soul of the Church at risk-part 3

My posting, Tricia Dykers Koenig, “Because of Scripture and Theology": The soul of the Church at risk-part 2, focused on five of Koenig’s nine “overarching themes” which she believes will keep Christians from “treating LGBT persons as defective or less-than.” Reminding the reader that her article, on the Covenant Network web site, is about replacing G-6.010b with amendment 10-A and that she is equating not ordaining LGBT people with considering them defective, I will look at the last four themes and Koenig’s conclusion.

6. Peter and Cornelius [Acts 10-11], where the real subject of the vision about clean and unclean is not food, but people: “What God has called clean, you must not call profane … If God then gave them the same gift that God gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could hinder God?

Koenig begins this theme, with an error. This text is not first about people but about what God has done through the death and resurrection of the eternal Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus in his death and resurrection allowed food that was considered unclean by the Jewish food codes to be called clean. But humanity, whose nature is sinful, must be made clean, reborn, given the righteousness of Christ. And God’s free gift is for all those who are called.

God called the food clean, through the work of Jesus on the cross; he would call the repentant and believing Gentiles clean. In doing this God did not declare that anyone’s sin was clean, rather he forgave them their sin. Peter’s end to his first sermon to the Gentiles is:

And he [God] ordered us to preach to the people and solemnly to testify that this is the one who has been appointed by God as judge of the living and the dead. Of him all the prophets bear witness that through his name everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins. (Acts 10: 42-43)

God has the prerogative here; the food is clean by his word because of Jesus Christ: sinners are given righteousness, forgiveness and transformation. We live by Christ who is not sinful by nature. We are united to Christ and in him keep walking away from sinful lifestyles.

7. The gift of the Holy Spirit

This is really part of the theme above. But the inference is that God would not give his Holy Spirit to those he does not approve of. But the Holy Spirit is given not because of approval of any person but because of the work of Jesus Christ. The Church leaders at Jerusalem state to Peter, “Well then God has granted to the Gentiles also the repentance that leads to life.”

This is God’s work and the approval rests simply on Jesus Christ and his righteousness. Surely God has not chosen me because of my selfishness and hostility toward him, but because he loved me. God does not bless sin but rather forgives it, and at a great cost.

8. God is love

Yes he is! Micah 7 states:

Who is a God like you, who pardons iniquity and passes over the rebellious act of the remnant of his possession? He does not retain his anger forever, because he delights in unchanging love.

Here, In the passage where the above verse is found, the text speaks of God casting our sin into the depths of the sea forever. God’s love is most beautifully known in the Incarnation and the death of Christ on the cross for our sins. As Paul in Romans states, “But God demonstrates his own love towards us, in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. (5:8)”

Because of that love God calls all of us, as his people, to walk in holiness. Paul goes on to encourage believers to put away their sin because of their new life in Christ. “Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, and do not go on presenting members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness but present yourself to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. (6:12-13)”

For the church, the implication of the fact that “God is love,” is that she must keep calling the sinner to repentance with God’s love shaping her viewpoint and attitude. Condoning sin for the sake of perfect love is a caricature of Christian ethics.

9. All members of the Body of Christ are needed, gifted, and valued

Yes, but not all are yielded to the Holy Spirit, the Lordship of Jesus or the authority of God’s word.

In Koenig’s conclusion she attempts to deal with the nature of God, seeing correctly God’s love in Jesus Christ. She points to Jesus’ emphasis on the law that fulfills all of the law in Matthew 22:36-40, paraphrasing it as “love God with our whole being, and to love our neighbor as ourselves.” While insisting that this does not mean ‘do anything you want because of love’ she does give a psychological twist to the verses. “It means that Christ calls us to follow the course that is most conducive to individual and community well-being.”

With this thought Koenig slips right past the first most important commandment. That is, loving God with our whole being. The love for self becomes quite different as believers begin a life of attempting to love God with our whole being. The goal, and it happens as Christ through the Holy Spirit starts changing us, is to glorify God with our whole lives. (This will never be finished until we are eternally with Jesus) Therefore the way we love our neighbor, as we love ourselves, will also be set within a desire to love God. Our desire will be that our neighbor be changed and transformed, also loving God with their whole being.

Such love does not always lead to individual and community well-being. It leads to eternal well-being but too often to emotional and physical suffering. Jesus’ grace was not only costly to himself, it is also costly to those who follow him. We do not buy what God has given through Jesus Christ; our righteousness belongs to Jesus. But if we wear his righteousness we find, the flesh, the world and the devil demanding retribution which is a price. We pay it as we faithfully, and joyfully, follow Jesus, paying obedient attention to his words.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Tricia Dykers Koenig,"Because of Scripture and Theology": The soul of the Church at risk-part 2

My last posting, Tricia Dykers Koenig, "Because of Scripture and Theology": The soul of the Church at risk, covered the first section of Koenig’s second article in the Covenant Network’s series “Why We Repeatedly Revisit G-6.0106b (and Will Continue to Do So Until It’s Amended). Koenig writing about scripture and theology, has listed what she sees as nine “overarching themes that lead us away from a conclusion that results in treating LGBT persons as defective or less-than.”

With this posting I will address five of the themes. In my next posting I will look at the last four and Koenig’s conclusion. But first I want to address the suggestion that we are treating LGBT persons as defective because they are not allowed ordination.

The church, through centuries has considered all unrepentant sin as a barrier to ordination. This is not to say that it hasn’t happened over and over, but it has never happened because the Church as a whole gave approval to sin, but rather because the church failed to discipline and/or correct biblically the unrepentant sinner. And clearly such discipline and correction has nothing to do with defective persons but instead with sinners who wish to have their sin approved.

The first overarching theme that would help the church ordain LGBT persons is:

1. Exodus, liberation from bondage and oppression.

This is certainly a grand theme of the Bible beginning with the Israelites release from their bondage as slaves in Egypt. And in scriptures the theme can be seen in both the physical release of captives by other peoples and nations and the spiritual release of those who are captive to sin. One of the more terrifying pictures in scriptures of someone in bondage is the demoniac of the New Testament. “Constantly, night and day he was screaming among the tombs and in the mountains, and gashing himself with stones.” (Mark 5:5) Luke reports that later he was healed and sitting at the feet of Jesus, a beautiful picture of a captive’s release from bondage.

But the greedy, the intellectual or religious unbeliever, the sexual sinner are all released from bondage by Jesus. Such a theme covers all of us, including those who are in bondage to their homosexuality.

2. The prophetic call for justice against domination

I am not sure I would call this an overarching theme, but it is certainly a biblical theme. God sometimes uses nations and peoples to judge and try his people. But he in turn chastises them for their domination of others. And in the context of the gospel and the New Testament God is concerned about leadership abuse.

Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the suffering of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed, shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock. (1 Peter 5:1-3)

And yet this same New Testament letter admonishes believers to not “be conformed to their former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy one who called you be holy yourself also in all your behavior; because it is written, ‘you shall be holy for I am holy.’ (1:14-16)”Calvin, in his commentary, clarifies this sense of holiness that God calls believers to when he writes:

In bidding us to be holy like himself, the proportion is not that of equals; but we ought to advance in this direction as far as our condition will bear. And as even the most perfect are always very far from coming up to the mark, we ought daily to strive more and more. And we ought to remember that we are not only told what our duty is, but that God also adds, “I am he who sanctify you.”

It is added, In all manner of conversation, or, in your whole conduct. There is then no part of our life which is not to be redolent with this good odour of holiness.

It is God who has the authority and it is he who calls the believer to holiness. But it is also God who sanctifies. Christ is the Chief Shepherd and redeemer; his grace and mercy is full of pleading for the sinner to repent. Those who refuse to repent have to do with him and his authority. While domination may be a sin among humanity it is God’s right to rule. It is his right to demand repentance.

3. Jesus’ insistence on associating with women, lepers, “outcasts and sinners.”

There is an implication in this third theme that those who agree with the biblical teaching that homosexuality is sin are not friends with the marginalized and sinners. That is a particularly obnoxious view held by too many progressives. First, we are all sinners, some have claimed the righteousness of Christ others have rejected his gift. But nonetheless Jesus calls us to be friends to those who need his love and forgiveness. And I find that most Christians who are orthodox and evangelical are deeply involved with the outcast and sinners.

Koenig forgets that there is also love in discipline and truth telling. Jesus loved and forgave the sinner. He also told them to go and sin no more.

4. Paul’s insistence that faith in Jesus, not adhererence to a set of legal requirements, is the constituting factor for membership in the covenant people.

Certainly we are saved by grace. We do not enter the community of Jesus, the Church, without the righteousness of Christ. He calls us, redeems us and places us in his Church. As Paul writes in Ephesians, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as result of works, so that no one may boast.” (2:8-9)Yet, Paul goes on to write that we were made new in order to walk in the good works that God has laid out for us. “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” (2:10)

And in 1 Corinthians, Paul after listing the sins of the unconverted, including homosexuality and coveting, writes, “Such were some of you, but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.” (6:11) Note that the believers were such sinners but now they are washed, sanctified and justified.

Leon Morris, in the Tyndale Commentary, writes of verse 11;

The tremendous revolution brought about by the preaching of the gospel comes out in the quiet words, And that is what some of you were. It was no promising material [none of us are] that confronted the early preachers, but people whose standards were of the lowest. It had required the mighty power of the Spirit of God to turn people like that away from their sins, and to make them members of Christ’s church. Three times Paul uses the strong adversative alla, but, to stress the contrast between the old life that they had left and the new life in Christ.

Justification by Christ brings us into the community of believers but we are transformed and begin growing away from our former life as we walk united to Jesus Christ.

5. The systematic extension of the gospel to those previously considered outsiders in Acts

One cannot be certain it was a ‘systematic’ extension, but it was an extension planned for before the foundation of the world. (Ephesians 1:4; 3) It was a part of God’s promise to Abraham. His seed would bless the nations. (Genesis 12:3)In Acts the first time the Jewish church welcomes the Gentiles they praised God with some rather unique words. “When they heard this [that God had received the Gentiles] they quieted and glorified God, saying, ‘Well then, God has granted to the Gentiles also the repentance that leads to salvation.” (Acts 11:18)

Calvin comments on Luke’s use of the word repentance, “The word repentance alone is expressed in this place, but when he addeth unto life, it appeareth plainly that it is not separated from faith. Therefore, whosoever will rightly profit in the gospel, let him put off the old man, and think upon newness of life, (Ephesians 4:22) that done, let him know for a certainty that he is not called in vain unto repentance, but that there is salvation prepared for him in Christ.” So the two, faith and repentance, are not separated; salvation by faith is as Dietrich Bonhoeffer puts it “costly.” The sinner sheds his skin, so to speak, and with the help of the Holy Spirit keeps shedding. Go and sin no more is always Jesus’ command to us.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Tricia Dykers Koenig, "Because of Scripture and Theology": The soul of the Church at risk

Tricia Dykers Koenig, National Organizer for the Covenant Network, has written three articles under the series title, “Why We Repeatedly Revisit G-6.0106b (and Will Continue to Do So Until It’s Amended).” The second article is entitled “Because of Scripture and Theology.”

Koenig explains how she interprets the Bible’s commandments against homosexual sex. She also addresses theological views about God’s nature and grace and how her views affect her understanding of homosexual activity. As the debate is not new her points are not new. However, they should be taken seriously. The soul of the Church is at risk because some of Koenig's ideas have significant meaning since both mainline denominations and the nation are turning towards an unbiblical morality.

I also write that Koenig’s views are significant because I believe there is some truth in what she writes. I explain below. As usual, among those who advocate for the ordination of practicing LGBT persons, Koenig believes that the homosexuality condemned in the scriptures is either exploitative sexuality or cultic sexuality. She mentions the actions in Sodom as an example of exploitive and sees laws on what is unclean as well as idol worship involving sexuality as cultic.

She also goes on to assert that the Bible simply reflects the cultural attitudes of its time, and then points to the tenth commandment to suggest that in that commandment women are seen as property. Koenig believes such a view should change the reader’s viewpoint about how to see scripture. One tosses out the idea that women are property (since that is cultural) but keeps the timeless principle that people should not covet. As Koenig puts it:

Our guidelines for biblical interpretation involve figuring out which timeless principles underlie particular biblical provisions, then applying those principles to our circumstances.

But the Bible is not about timeless principles but rather it is the story of God and his amazing redemption of his people through the eternal Son, Jesus Christ. Within that story the commandments of God are important. They bring us to God by showing that we are unable to live up to them. A school master, Paul calls them. They also guide us in our walk as those redeemed, as does the entire Bible. So looking at that last commandment it is coveting that is addressed with a very definite “Thou shall not.”

Therefore, property or not, a man’s wife and a woman’s husband should not be coveted. The commandments of God bring us to God and guide us as we walk with Jesus.

In the same manner, in Leviticus 18:22 a man lying with another man is also a “shall not.” And both Lev 18: 22 and Lev 20:13 are set in the midst of texts that deal with sexual immorality within family relationships and also murderous idolatry that involves families. The truth is, Koenig is partly right, all of the sexual sins are exploitive simply in the sense that families, individuals and communities are brought to ruin.

And just as in the same passages, sacrificing children to the idol Molech is forbidden and is cultic in nature (a part of religious ritual and devotion) although it has to do with parents and families, so homosexual sex in this text may be cultic with out changing the fact that it is between consenting adults. To clarify, it is cultic in the sense that life among those communities which do such things takes on a cultic nature in that all that is unnatural is lifted up and seen as a sacred part of daily living.[1]

And this is easily seen in Romans chapter 1 where God, because of idolatry, gives humanity over to their degrading passions, which includes gay and lesbian sex. The text goes on to list many, many sins which are not sexual in nature. They are all a sign of the rejection of God and his word. However, homosexual sex is listed first and connected to the worship of that which is not God.

Koenig next gives some rather illogical thoughts concerning intimate relationships. She suggests that because the Bible tells of marriages among the ancient patriarchs which consisted of more than one wife and/or concubines God’s plan for marriage did not center on only monogamous relationships between one man and one woman. But Jesus bypasses the sinfulness of humanity and when speaking of marriage goes back to creation.

Although Jesus is speaking about divorce he nonetheless is speaking of marriage:

And he answered and said, “Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate(Matt 19:4-6).

Koenig attempts to reverse the words of Jesus by suggesting that when Adam exclaimed about Eve “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; this one shall be called Woman, for out of Man this one was taken,” he meant Eve was his kin. And Koenig uses the words of Laban to his nephew Jacob as proof. (Genesis 29:14) But to insist on Koenig’s interpretation is to ignore the words of Jesus. Jacob and Laban did not become one flesh.

And further, we know that when God states that he is giving Adam a helpmate the word is the same one used of God when he is a helper to us. And while this elevates Eve’s job description it does not elevate her to Godhood. Neither was Eve ever able to help Adam in the same way God was able. Laban’s exclamation to Jacob does not, in the context of the passage, carry the same meaning that Adam’s does.

At the end of this particular section Koenig attempts to negate God’s commands with the use of God’s grace. She writes that “even if one believes that the order of creation is proscriptive, Christ’s grace supersedes that order:” and then she quotes Galatians 3:24-28.

Here she is implying that because of God’s grace given as forgiveness and reconciliation, even if one believes that marriage between a man and a woman is God’s order, still it is alright to be in a same gender sexual relationship. In other words, because Christ has died for us we can go on living in habitual sin without repenting.

But Paul in another place in Galatians answers such an absurdity. “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. (5:16)” The problem is that Koenig is mixing up attempting to be made righteous by following the law, an impossible position, with a refusal to be transformed by the Holy Spirit through the life of Christ. Paul lists the deeds of the flesh which includes sexual immorality. And he lists the fruits of the Spirit which include self control and faithfulness. Biblically we are all called to walk by the Spirit.

Koenig lists nine “overarching themes” which she believes leads the Christian away from “treating LGBT persons as defective or less-than.” I will look at them in my next posting.

[1] In this context I suggest the book, Body and Soul: Rethinking Sexuality as Justice-Love, ed. Marvin M. Ellison and Sylvia Thorson-Smith. I am thinking of such chapters as “Gay Erotic Spirituality and the Recovery of Sexual Pleasure,” or “Receptivity and Revelation: A Spirituality of Gay Male Sex,” and “Embracing God as Goddess: Exploring Connections between Female Sexuality, Naming the Divine.”

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Covenant Network's eleven affirmations and the Lordship of Jesus Christ

The Covenant Network, one of the organizations working for ordination of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender members in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), has put up three articles related to the coming vote on Amendment 10-A. In this posting I want to address the one entitled “10-A Affirmations.” These are affirmations that the author of the article believes all Presbyterians can agree on. The gist of the article is that Amendment 10-A does not negate any of the tenets of faith that all agree on therefore it should be passed with this additional thought:

Presbyterians will continue to disagree about the ethics of same-sex relationships – the Holy Spirit has not yet brought us to consensus on that, and the discernment will go on as we study Scripture together. But we can move on beyond the conflict over this paragraph by approving 10-A, which lifts up principles upon which we can all agree.

I wish to address several errors the Covenant Network is maintaining with their article. (1) That the 11 affirmations are agreed on by all Presbyterians. (2)That we are moving toward a time when the Holy Spirit will move us to a consensus about the ethics of same-sex relationships. (3)That it is possible to move beyond conflict by removing G-6.0106b.

It is possible to take the first affirmation and subsume most of the other affirmations within or under it. That is the affirmation that “Jesus Christ is Lord.” The very act of ordaining unrepentant LGBT persons would be a clear rejection of the affirmation that Jesus Christ is Lord. Jesus is Lord of the church for two reasons each reason negates violating biblical standards on sexuality.

First of all, to say Jesus is Lord is to recognize him as God, the eternal Son of the Father. That means that the words of Scripture are his words. They are not to be rejected, twisted or ignored. When Jesus speaks of marriage being between a man and a woman as he does in Matthew 19:3-6 it is his words, but it is also his words in Leviticus 20: 13 and Romans 1, etc. So if his Church calls Jesus Lord, and she must, she will obey his word.

Second, to recognize Jesus as Lord is to understand that the Church was birthed from his redeeming work on the cross and because of that its members, through his power, strive to live a holy life. As 1 Peter puts it:

If you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves in fear during your stay on earth; knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from the futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ. (1 Peter 1:17-20)

John H. Elliot, in his commentary on 1 Peter explains that this passage, and the whole epistle, with its admonition to live with awe towards God by good conduct is not implying that believers are living as aliens in the sense that their home is heaven rather than earth. But instead they are aliens because of the unrighteous culture in which they live. And the text emphasizes that the church’s ethics belong to a tradition that reaches beyond all ancient cultural traditions and belongs to the eternal Son who was before the “foundations of the earth.”

Explaining the reason for 1 Peter’s call to holiness, Elliot enumerates the need for blood sacrifice in the Old Testament and then lists the references to the sacrifice of Jesus in the New Testament such as “the lamb who takes away the sins of the world, (John 1:29)” and “the one whose blood confers life and effects a new and everlasting covenant between God and humanity (Mark 14:24 par; John 6:53-56; 1Cor 11:25; Heb 9=10; 13:20).”Concluding he writes, “The Petrine author draws on this Christological tradition and its OT roots to provide a Christological as well as a theological (vv 15-16) warrant for his exhortation to holiness.”[1]

In both of these understandings of Jesus as Lord those on the progressive side of the Church are not in agreement with the orthodox. On the far left of the progressive movement within the PCUSA, are those who do not believe that Jesus is God or that Jesus’ death on the cross is redemptive. Therefore they reject the Lordship of Christ. But even those who are more moderate in their views, yet are striving to change the church’s biblical ethics, are refusing to obey the word of God, which is Jesus’ word. They too are, by their actions, rejecting the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

Yet the second error I have listed “That we are moving toward a time when the Holy Spirit will move us to a consensus about the ethics of same-sex relationships,” is also a rejection of Christ’s Lordship. The word of God, the words of Jesus Christ are illuminated within our heart and mind by the Holy Spirit. Jesus said that the Holy Spirit would glorify him. That the Holy Spirit would take what is Christ’s and disclose it to his disciples. (John 16: 14-15) He also stated that the Holy Spirit would convict the world of sin, righteousness and judgment. (John17:8)

In the midst of a culture so totally given over to deviant sexuality, to resist the convicting work of the Holy Spirit as he opens the words of scripture to the hearts of this generation is to reject the Lordship of Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit is not moving us toward any consensus that would contradict the word of God; the Holy Spirit does not wait for consensus but pleads, convicts and promises judgment on a church that will not listen to the word of God.

The third error, “That it is possible to move beyond conflict by removing G-6.0106b,” also involves rejecting the Lordship of Jesus Christ. And with this error the Covenant Network is actually asking the orthodox in the church to join them in rejecting Christ’s Lordship. The church is troubled by those who are insisting, even haranguing the church to ordain unrepentant sinners. The church is troubled by those who, while calling for unity, are willing to fragment the church in order to allow friends and family, brothers and sisters, to continue on in sin.

It would be unreasonable for those who call Jesus Lord to throw away a defense that God has surely given for that very place where one of the intense and significant spiritual battles of the day is being fought. Moving beyond conflict is not particularly biblical, standing firm while loving brothers and sisters is biblical. And sometimes the love of Christ requires that we stand firm, in the midst of conflict, for the sake of erring believers. As Jude puts it, “…on some have mercy with fear hating even the garment polluted by the flesh.”

The affirmation of Jesus’ Lordship entails an affirmation of his eternal Sonship, the authority of his word, the Bible, and his redeeming life, death and resurrection. Affirming the Lordship of Jesus the church must be willing to live a life unpolluted by the sinful aspect of contemporary culture. Jesus Christ is still Lord; may the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A) continue as his church.

[1] John H. Elliot, 1Peter, A New Translation with Commentary, The Anchor Series, (New York: Doubleday 2000).

Monday, October 4, 2010

Israel was founded illegally and has the worst record on human rights?

The long piece below is taken from the Israel/Palestine Mission Network. It is about a horrible video displayed on You Tube by an Israeli soldier doing a belly dance around a bound Palestinian Woman. There is no question that this is outrageous and criminal. But how is this outrageous act being used by the IPMN? To plead for peace? To shame the soldier? No, it is being used to defame all of the State of Israel. That is why I have posted the whole interchange between Noushin Framke and Samer Hassouneh.

"Israel Palestine Mission Network There are no words to describe this 1 minute video of an IDF soldier taunting a bound Palestinian woman. BEYOND SHAMEFUL.

YouTube clip shows IDF soldier belly-dancing beside bound Palestinian woman
A number of IDF soldiers have over the last year faced investigation and penalty for documenting themselves performing questionable acts in front of Palestinian prisoners or while on patrol.

Noushin Framke What a country!
7 hours ago ·

Samer Hassouneh Noushin, a country that was founded illegally, came to being by force, and has the worst record for human rights abuses. Not surprising really although still disturbing.
6 hours ago ·

Noushin Framke ‎@Samer : exactly! "

Framke, who is the chair of the communications work group for IPMN, has agreed to several lies in the name of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).
1. Israel was founded illegally
2. Israel came to being by force. (This is a half-lie-Israel came to being by force because she had to fight against the surrounding Arab nations.)
3. Israel has the worst record for human rights abuses.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

The King

God promised king David that he would have a son who would rule on his throne forever. “The Lord also declares to you that the Lord will make a house for you. When your days are complete and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your descendent after you, who will come forth from you and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever."

The historical promises to the Jewish people are also filled with the eternal promises to all those who God calls. Jesus, the son of David & the Son of God, is both messiah and king. King is not a metaphor here. Jesus is truly a King and he is the King of kings because he is the Lord. All kings must find their definition of King in the person of Jesus. The more they conform to Jesus the more they resemble a real king.

Revelation, the last book in the Bible speaks of the lamb as King. Speaking of evil humanity, evil leaders, and evil that rejects the kingship of Christ, John writes:

These will wage war against the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, because he is the Lord of lords and King of kings, and those who are with him are the called and chosen and faithful. (Revelation 17:14)

There is so much hope in that last sentence, “those who are with him are the called and chosen and faithful. This is all God’s doing, united with Christ, and called by Christ, chosen by him and faithful because of his keeping power. It is Jesus, the King, who has died for us and redeemed us and keeps us.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Our children & bullying

There are a lot of articles going around the web about the young man who committed suicide because someone videotaped him having sex and put it on the web. Because the young man was having sex with someone of the same gender many are calling it a hate crime. But all bullying of children by children or adults is hate. The act is horrible and abusive.

I have six children and many grandchildren. I know what it is to have my children bullied. One, a son, was horribly and physically bullied. They were awful terrible bullies. And he was and still is just a sweet exceptional person who cares for and helps everyone around him. And that was in the days when many schools and principals would not do anything about bullying. We removed him from school and after moving into a better school district found a wonderful public school that fit his needs perfectly.

Another child, a daughter, had a girl hand her a horrible note each day as she arrived at school. It was always a different person who handed it to her, but it was always the same girl who wrote it. I saved up all the notes and finally, realizing how depressed she was becoming, I took them to school and dumped them on the principal’s desk. The principal was reluctant but took care of the problem. I called the students mom also and her one response was, well your daughter does wear six earrings in one ear. Sometimes words fail me.

Several years later when this daughter was on her own and working, the same person, who was selling magazines, fraudulently, ordered a huge amount of magazines in my daughter’s name. Perhaps it is our failure to understand that people are sinners and that individual evil is real, that allows such acts to go unhindered and unpunished. I am one who believes only Christ can change the sinner, and only Jesus, usually through us and /or the Church can help hurting children.

They do need to know they can tell us and the church anything. There is no other way we can reach out with comfort, guide through love and scriptures and help them.

Although I know from experience it isn’t just females or homosexuals that are bullied, and it isn’t just males who do the bullying, so I would widen the concern, still I think the former Moderator of the PCUSA, Bruce Reyes-Chow, has some important things to say in this video.

Israel's Jewish Character-should Presbyterians be debating that?

Whoever puts the links up for the Israel Palestine Mission Network on Facebook has linked to a Huffington post, “Israel's Jewish Character Is Subject for Debate.” [1] The article is by Ahmed Moor a Palestinian freelance journalist. The sad part about this is not the Palestinian writer. He has his opinions. It is rather the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s IPMN’s comments to their link.

Is what this article says really that controversial?” they ask. So what does the author of the article say? He insists that the state of Israel should not be a Jewish state and he also insists that the problems should be solved by a one state solution. But for a PCUSA organization which is supposed to be representing all of us as a church to ask why it is controversial for an article to suggest that neither a Jewish State nor a two state solution is viable in that troubled land is absurd. Strangely, in their progressive stance the people involved in IPMN are leaning far to the extreme right.

Moor writes:

Zionism is the belief that Jewish people ought to be privileged in Palestine/Israel solely because of their race. Moreover, non-Jewish indigenous people -- the Palestinians -- must be forced off the land so that it can be settled by Jews. That's what happened in 1948 and that's what's happening today in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. Many liberal Zionists don't like to acknowledge it, but the process that yielded the land west of the green line was just as wrong as anything the setters have done. Its scale was also several magnitudes larger.

First of all this is not a completely true statement, because it is not complete history. But secondly, and more importantly it is a statement that means Israel as a state, and yes a Jewish State, should never have happened. So the leaders of IPMN believe that statement is not controversial. That is why I state that they are leaning very far to the right as far as the Jewish people and the nation of Israel are concerned.

Moor goes on to write:

It's astonishing that this is a controversial view in the 21st century. It's surely a feat of Zionist historicizing that otherwise intelligent and moral people in the West continuously affirm the "right of Israel to exist as the Jewish state." The racism inherent in this statement -- Jewish privilege exists through ethnic cleansing and apartheid -- is appalling. Yet, people uncritically affirm that "right."

Let me correct Moor's statement before continuing on with what I wish to say about IPMN. It is not and was not ethnic cleansing. It was a battle between one state and the many others who attacked that state. There were atrocities on both sides. Some Palestinians were pushed out by Israel, some fled because they thought they could come back after the Arab nations who had attacked Israel destroyed her.

A Jewish Israel exists because wise and compassionate peoples believed that after 2000 years of persecution a state for the Jews was the answer to that problem. Israel is a haven that all Jews acknowledge. The ancient homeland of the Israelites was chosen for the very reason that it was the ancient homeland of the Jewish people. (Uganda & the United States were considered.) It was also chosen because Jewish people were already living in the land. The attribute ‘indigenousness’ belongs as much if not more to the Jews as it does to any other people living there.

There already exists, in the Middle East, as well as several other areas Islamic nations. If a one state solution were used in solving the problems between the Palestinians and Israelis there would soon no longer be a safe haven for the Jews in the Middle East. History has already shown that in the midst of a crisis within a nation the Jews are often the scapegoat. It would seem that the Palestinian writer does not want a two state solution because he does not want a Jewish State. Does the IPMN want a Jewish State?

I do not know if Ahmed Moor is a Muslim or a Christian, I do know that the members of IPMN are Presbyterian and hopefully Christian. Several Christian theologians have written and spoken about the place of the Jew within God’s keeping love. And they have seen the land of Israel as a sign that God keeps his promises.

For instance, I have quoted David Torrance and his list of ways that God is confronting the nations through the Jews. Of the State of Israel he writes:

Their presence in the promised land reminds us in the twentieth century that our destiny is not in our hands. The nations do not hold their destiny in their own hands. It is not in the hands of their governments. Our destiny is in the hand of God who personally intervenes in history challenging the nations to humble themselves and to obey him, even as he challenged Pharaoh.
Israel’s return to the land of promise, following as it does an attempt under Hitler to obliterate everything Jewish, reminds us not only that God is the Lord of history but also that events seem to be moving fairly fast toward the ultimate goal of history.

And Karl Barth reminds all of those who disparage the Jew that we do so because the Jew is a sign that we must all live by the grace of God. (The Christian is that too.) Barth writes:

Why do we so dislike to be told that the Jews are the chosen people? Why does Christendom continually search for fresh proof that this is no longer true? In a word, because we do not enjoy being told that the sun of free grace, by which alone we can live, shines not upon us, but upon the Jews, that it is the Jews who are elect and not the Germans, the French or the Swiss, [or the Arabs or Americans] and that in order to be chosen we must, for good or ill, either be Jews or else be heart and soul on the side of the Jews. ‘Salvation is of the Jews.” It is in their existence that we non-Jews come up against the rock of divine choice, which first passing over us is primarily made by Another, a choice which can concern us only in that it firsts concerns Him and cannot affect us except in Him and through Him.

Barth goes on to point out that we must not reject the One Jew, looking down from his cross. But his point is clear and Barth goes on explaining with the thought that to be chosen means we are guests in the house of the Jews. While we need sometimes to criticize the State of Israel we should not be suggesting that the place of safety provided for the Jewish people in the Holy Land should not exist. And I say ‘we’ here because the IPMN has pulled the whole Presbyterian Church in after them. They are we so we must keep apologizing for their/our actions.

We are in great danger of joining in history’s goosestep with the IPMN’s kind of thinking.

[1] It may be Noushin Framke, since she is the chair for the IPMN’s communications work group.
[2] picture by Christopher Juncker