Friday, March 12, 2010

Eschatological Perspective (Hope)

Rob here.

In his last post, my dad mentioned "not making this about me" and ended by asking "Got Hope?"

Discussions of the afterlife are important. People may not realize it, but our visions of the future drastically affect the way that we live now. Unfortunately, these discussions tend to be pushed aside in favor of religious neutrality or apathetic understanding, because we are content to define the afterlife as "going to heaven when we die." When defined thus, the Christian mission in the world becomes about conversion--saving as many souls from hell as we can by helping them make an intellectual decision--rather than holistic transformation/restoration; it becomes about cultivating one's own privatized spirituality rather than being responsible/sustainable with the surrounding world; it becomes more about maintaining one's own personal piety, in hopes of being in eternal spiritual bliss with God one day, rather than about the sacrificial work in this world that we are called to.
The Christian hope does not involve escaping the world or physical reality, but the language used to talk about the afterlife spins it this way. The picture at the end of Revelation is the New Jerusalem descending to earth. The Kingdom will come. We will partake in the Resurrection. Christ came and gave us a taste of what the Kingdom is. Why, then, do we so easily describe the afterlife in escapist terms - as going to heaven, experiencing hyper-body spirituality, and leaving the physical world behind? Christ came and gave a commission to redeem the world, not to pluck a select few out of it.

Our eschatological perspective needs a re-orienting. Our assumptions run deep - they are influenced by thinkers as far back as Plato, who pitted the Divine and the earthly against each other in a dualistic structure. Yes, God is completely "other" - but it does not mean that he will bring us into his "otherness" and forsake all that is earthly. In Christ, there is a clear picture of redeeming the world in all its physically created glory.

So, what is a proper view? I think I said it in an earlier post, and N.T. Wright explains it much better in his book Surprised by Hope. It is a hope in the Resurrection, begun in the body of Christ. One day, our whole being will be renewed. That is our hope--not eternal disembodied bliss. And, the important thing is that human beings are not passive in this project. God chose humans to be his vessels of redemption to the world. If we partake in the tradition of Christ, then we look forward to future restoration (through the lens of Christ's work), in order to bring the Kingdom more fully in the present. It is a holistic project - not merely converting individuals to an intellectual decision so they can be caught up to heaven when they die. Having a hope for the future grants us motivation to work toward that redemption in the present; to act as if it were true.

And what is the basic framework that Christ lays for this redemption-work? Love. Giving the cup of water to him who is in thirst. Sacrificing for the "other." Laying aside personal wealth, notoriety, knowledge - even spirituality - out of love for another. It is a paradox--it is at our weakest moment of sacrifice that we find our true strength in the tradition of Christ. It is the only way for God to found a Kingdom that is not based on violence, oppression or deception. The way of love. The tragedy that the Christian is forced to accept is that this way of sacrifice means death.

I look forward to the day when Jacob has full motility and no medical complications. I look forward to the day when 18-year olds don't get lethal bacterial infections and when infants don't die of leukemia and when earthquakes don't kill millions and when women aren't raped and murdered and when people don't let minor disagreements stand in the way of reconciliation. But for now, we will love all, and heal whom we may.

-Rob (Jake's bro)

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Looking up to heaven

We were told many months ago when the dead skin and skull piece were removed that Jacob's rehab would slow down a bit. I was told by a doctor that the brain does not like to be uncovered so it affects its function. That was a valuable reminder for me. Here we are 4 months beyond when Jake should have had his brain covered because of the infection in his thumb and the amount of time he needed to be on the anti-biotics before the plate could be inserted. We do have our Jake back - there is no damage to his brain - he is the same kid (almost adult, adult-in-his-mind) that he was before. He is now a lot more left handed than right. He has a bald spot on the left side of his head - with some really awesome stitches. He also has to be very careful with his graft sights and has limitations in his physical activities now. But he is still our Jacob. 

Last night for the first time in 9 months Jake's friends came and took him out - without mom and dad trailing behind and no need for a helmet. Jake took him to his favorite Sushi spot and they got to just hang out. Because of where we live it is a huge sacrifice for his friends to come up the mountain. Honestly I was nervous - paranoid? Jensen and I got to hang out which was a blessing - but I continued to wait on Jake. Big blessing for me is that he gave me a call at one point and let me know what they were doing and when they would be home - something I did not ask for last night - but he knows that is my big rule - just let me know. 

So this side of surgery Jake is doing great. He still has pain around the stitch sight and his jaw, teeth and ear are still adjusting to having a round head again. We see his progress each day with the continued gentle reminders that he is still recovering. We are still dealing with finding shoes that do not cause bleeding on the graft site on his heal. We highly recommend Sinuk (they are sandals not shoes) and you can by them at Freeline in Capitola. (www.freelinesurf.com) 

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In Luke 9, Jesus' disciples had just returned from a trip - a ministry trip of sorts. They had been sent by Jesus to go out to they surrounding communities in order to bring the presence of God's Kingdom. They were empowered to heal, preach, care for people - to perform the miraculous and to share the hope that is found in fellowship with God. They were sent to people who were already suppose to be following God - not people that had never heard anything.

When they returned Jesus lead them away for a time of debriefing perhaps - a time to get away and be alone with the one who had sent them. But the crowd pressed in and followed - Luke says 5000 which we no from that time only included the men: add to that women, children, servants. So this stadium full of people would not let them alone. The disciples in their love for humanity ask Jesus to send them away. I am sure they were tired and hungry from all that they had done. On their trip their were those that welcomed them and those that rejected and perhaps even flogged them. They were most likely sick of people. So they found a reason why Jesus should send them away: they look hungry Jesus and surely they are not smart enough to feed themselves so send them to get something to eat. 

Jesus looked at them and said, "you feed them." They had seen the hand of God work; they had healed the sick; they had given sight to the blind. Could they not do something as practical as a little bit of food from a rock? Manna from the sky? Meat delivered by ravens? 

The disciples were instruments of the almighty - used by God to deliver his message of hope to heal the broken; to feed the hungry; to give a simple cup of water to one in need - that God would multiply the harvest. (see Matthew 9:35-38) It was not about them. It is not about us. It is not about me. It is about God - his pleasure, his perfection, his presence. "Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven he have thanks and broke them. THEN he gave them to the disciples to set before the people. They all ate and were satisfied and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over." - Luke 9:16-17

I read verses 9:1-9 yesterday. Jesus sent out the Twelve with nothing - no money, no extra clothing, no staff for protection, nothing - fully dependent on God. The lesson continues as they return from their trip. Jesus looked up to heaven, gave thanks and then included the disciples in the task. Each of them had their own basket filled with leftovers - each of them held in their hands the evidence of the outpouring of God. Can you picture them standing their all twelve of them looking at each other, at the people, at their baskets, at Jesus? Maybe they even looked up to heaven. 

I begin to compare all of this to our journey. Each time that I begin to write I stop and delete because I begin to make it about me. It becomes me controlling - or trying to control into making things make sense once again. Each of us has our own stories - our own needs - our own lessons. So for me I am going to return to my journal and spend some time away with God. He knows our needs. He is still in control. He is still with us on our journey - because it is more about his journey than it is about my journey. I am so thankful that he includes us in his journey. Looking back at what God has done keeps us focused on what he will do. 


Got hope? 


Tom (daddy)