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The Conversion of the World into God’s Creation: a Reaction to a sermon at St. Paulus in San Francisco, May 14th, 2017

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Text: John 14:1-31

14‘Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe* in God, believe also in me. 2In my Father’s house there are many dwelling-places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?*3And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. 4And you know the way to the place where I am going.’* 5Thomas said to him, ‘Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?’ 6Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7If you know me, you will know* my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.’

8 Philip said to him, ‘Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.’9Jesus said to him, ‘Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, “Show us the Father”? 10Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works.11Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves. 12Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. 13I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14If in my name you ask me* for anything, I will do it.

The Conversion of the World into God’s Creation

At St. Paulus in San Francisco, Pastor Dan Solberg’s sermon moved me deeply. He has a very existentialist bent and his style, to have a collaborative sermon in asking the congregation questions, lets all who would, participate.

“If you had one question you could ask God, what would it be?” he asked.

One person asked, “Why does God damn so many people and only save a few?”

I asked, “Is the afterlife here on earth or elsewhere or in some sense inside us and to become real?” I know that Jürgen Moltmann teaches that eternal life starts right here and now with our baptism. “Passion is loving something enough to suffer for it.” is one of his quotes.

I thought that if God really does have a hell, then he would be a dictator like Hitler running a concentration camp. God is not like that. Jesus relates to Thomas that God is reflected in him, that when he wants to see God he merely has to contemplate Jesus. And if that does not convince him, then to believe Jesus because of his works. Thomas had asked Jesus to show him the Father and Jesus says, ”So long I have been with you and you do not recognize me?…I am the way, the truth, and the life.”

“So it’s just Jesus, not some omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent God, but this vulnerable human being oriented to life and healing.” Pastor Solberg maintained. Long ago it struck me that  Jesus did not run military campaigns to enhance his power to rule God’s kingdom, but healing campaigns. He wanted to bring the renewal of life to scale by sending out the twelve and then the seventy – twelve for the twelve tribes and seventy for all the nations on earth.

The truth of the matter is that we make lives a living hell here on earth, for example, Assad with a crematorium in his prison to burn all the bodies of those of his own people whom he tortured and murdered. Jesus was ushering in the new creation out of his “I am” and our “I am’s” as the way, truth, and life in the Gospel of John. The world is locked into coercion that threatens violence and death to those who speak truth to power or get outside of a tyrant’s control. Stalin, “Trust is good; control is better.” Jesus would say, “Some control is necessary, but trust is better.”

Jesus showed us the way below the way of the world, unfolding God’s creation, which is based on love, healing, and forgiveness, which in turn is about spreading abundant life. With deep feelings I felt that we are in a vortex which had swirled upward into distortions of God’s creation and Jesus was bringing about a conversion of the world back to God’s creation by his healing, life, love, and forgiveness.

But we are all still locked in the archeological layers of violence, coercion and fear and in Jesus God is going below these layers and ushering in the way of life, which is the truth that gives birth to life and love; while lies bring hate and mother violence.

We raise hell here on earth and Jesus was about converting all our sin by forgiveness to bring heaven back down by the strength that comes from above. Thus, Jesus taught us to pray, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”  

A pastor who is a member of this congregation quoted the theologian Ted Peters that we have to live prolepticly, meaning to live as if we are already were in heaven, thereby living the new way of life into existence.

In my question above, I realize that the afterlife begins right here and now with the human vulnerability of our earthly powerlessness that is tantamount to spiritual power or angel power as I like to call it. What is the angel power in your engine of love and compassion? Notice how a baby wraps its parents around its little finger with the power of their love. That is also why for the incarnation, Christmas proclaims the Christ-child.

But here on earth we still raise hell and think that God is like one of our tyrants thirsting for power and wealth, while Jesus showed us God’s way in his “I am,” dying for us in the love and forgiveness that ushers in the on-going, unfolding, conversion of the world into God’s creation of the beloved community, the friendship of nations, the salvation of the people of God. God’s love for us continues the conversion of this world into creation by continuing the incarnation. Are you just a Christian or a Christ to your neighbor?

Despite all my sin and the sin that the world is in, these feelings welled up inside me and gave me a vision of the reaches of heaven in Jesus’ conversion of the world.

Pastor Solberg then mentioned the story of the footprints in the sand, where in the most difficult and trying times, the two sets of footprints become one set. “Why did you leave me, precisely at the time I needed you the most?” the one suffering asks Jesus. “Not at all. That is when I had you on my back and carried you.” And we get to be the “I am’s” like Jesus and we carry those whose troubles could sink a battleship with heaven’s love and strength enfolding in oneness down and around us.

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Written by peterkrey

May 18, 2017 at 11:15 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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