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Jesus the Temple: the best book I’ve read this year

 

Perrin’s book Jesus the Temple is excellent. He follows the thought of N.T. Wright, for whom Perrin was a research assistant. Wright places Jesus’ teaching on the kingdom of God in its first-century Judaic context, arguing that the coming of the kingdom of God means the return from exile. God inaugurates the return from exile through the incarnation, life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus. The signs of the realization of the return from exile are the defeat of Israel’s enemies, the restoration of the temple, the flowing of the Gentiles to Jerusalem, and the renewal of creation. Wright points out that we see these signs in Jesus’ defeat of the enemies of sin (through forgiveness) and death (through resurrection), in the temple being redefined as Jesus’ body, in Jesus’ ministry to the Gentiles (and their incorporation into the people of God post-Pentecost), and in Jesus’ resurrected body as the first-fruit of the new creation.

Perrin takes up this theme, focusing on the restoration of the temple. The Jewish temple was not only the heart of worship but also the place of economic assistance for the poor, of social recognition, and of political confession. It was the place where Israel placed its hopes and from which it derived its national identity. But the temple was profaned by, inter alia, being constructed by human hands, by the corrupt administration of its priests, and by the defilement of the Gentiles. So, it functioned as a penultimate sign and anticipation of the true temple, which would bring together heaven and earth, God and humanity. Perrin argues that Jesus saw himself and his movement as the decisive embodiment of Yahweh’s eschatological temple.

Perrin describes how Jesus was not alone in developing counter-temple movements. The sects behind the Qumran and the Psalms of Solomon, as well as John the Baptist shared characteristics that set them against the temple and in anticipation of a new temple.

In Jesus’ cleansing of the temple, Perrin says that we see the most public expression of Jesus’ critique of the temple elite and their offenses toward the poor and the temple. It also is an announcement of Jesus’ establishment of a new temple in which he is its messianic high priest.

Perrin also links Jesus’ exorcisms and meals with the restoration of the temple. By defeating demonic powers, Jesus affirms that there is an alternative power to the temple. By dining with sinners, Jesus is not defiled but rather brings forgiveness, a power claimed through temple acts. Through these actions, Jesus and his followers constitute a new locus of the divine presence.

Another Jewish expectation that preceded the restoration of the temple was tribulation. Perrin argues that Jesus understand the period of tribulation as being well underway during his lifetime through the apostasy of Israel’s leadership, Herod and its temple aristocrats. Jesus bore this tribulation through persecution, torture and execution. And Jesus followers, the new temple built around the Cornerstone, continue to experience the tribulation as the temple is constructed.

One perspective I greatly appreciated was Perrin’s demonstration of Jesus’ solidarity with the poor as a function of his larger calling to be the eschatological temple. The temple aristocracy embezzled monies and then offered high interest loans to the poor. Thus, the financiers increased the temple landholdings and held the poor in an increasing cycle of destitution. The condition of being poor was not simply an economic, social or political status but also a theological reality. By thrusting those on the economic margins into disinheritance, the priestly rulers were in effect gerrymandering the boundaries of true Israel and forestalling full return from exile.

As high priest Jesus inaugurates Jubilee, which means not only an exile-ending release for the poor but also a prerequisite for proper temple worship. Jesus’ ministry among the poor, therefore, is ultimately grounded in his calling and introducing of a new temple. In the new temple, possessions are shared, almsgiving is redemptive and forgiveness entails economic debts, satisfying not only the immediate needs of the destitute but also giving them the ability to break the cycle of debt and poverty.

Jesus’ modeling and inviting to voluntary poverty and renunciation are not only for radical redistribution of possessions and diminishing one’s social status; they were also signs of the priestly calling (signifying the landless Levites).

Perrin also deals with the understanding of the temple in the early church and their connections and continuity with Jesus’ earthly ministry.

I highly recommend the book.

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An excellent call to urban mission by Tim Keller

Programs of Happiness

A friend of mine, Liz Ivkovich (who is in my blogroll), wrote this excellent reflection on programs of happiness:

I have always believed that God shows up in our daily lives, not just through Scripture or attending church, and that God uses our daily experiences to help us grow as Christians and as people. However, in college I remember having an experience and then thinking “Oh, someone did not see that situation the way that I saw it. Maybe the way that I saw it (gasp) wasn’t the whole story.” My perspective, filters, beliefs, & feelings limited what I was able to understand from that experience even though I wasn’t aware that anything was affecting me. This moment was the beginning of a very slow awakening to the fact that I have a whole inner landscape which is affecting me all of the time and I really don’t have any idea what that landscape looks like. If I don’t know what that inner landscape looks like, how can I find out what God wants to teach me through my experiences?

In The Human Condition; Contemplation and Transformation Fr. Thomas Keating describes three programs for happiness which are part of our inner landscape. These programs relate to what Paul calls “the old man,” also called “the false self” or the “non-essential self.” The programs are:

  • the need for security and survival
  • the need for affection and esteem
  • the need for power and control

These programs for happiness are unconscious and hidden so deep in our make up that we often don’t see how they drive our actions. Sometimes the better our actions seem to be – helping people, being involved in church or in peace and justice work, working at Word Made Flesh – the more one of these three programs may be secretly running the show. Fr. Richard Rohr said that many times good deeds just become “a more heroic disguise” for our false self. Paul says “Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us…” (Romans 12:2 NLT) In living out this command to have an honest evaluation of self, we have to look at everything, not just our actions but our internal motivations as well. The question becomes not just “What good things have I done?” but “When am I being run by one of my programs instead of by the fruits of the Spirit- love, joy, peace, et. al?”

I believe that God wants us to be free to love and serve each other from the Holy Spirit which lives inside of us instead of acting out of our programs. But, how do we know when one of these programs is involved in what we are doing? One way we can see our programs in action is when one of these programs is frustrated. Usually that means someone or something threatens our power & control, doesn’t offer us affection or esteem, or in some way makes us feel unsafe and insecure. When this happens we experience so-called ‘negative’ emotions such as shame, anger, humiliation, grief, sorrow, discouragement, fear.These emotions are a signal that something has frustrated our program for happiness. Our habitual response is to send that negative emotion outward- “She did this to me!” or maybe we internalize it “I’m a bad person.” or possibly we avoid it “I’m not upset, I’m just trying to GET THINGS DONE around here.” It seems like we have many creative ways to avoid recognizing the emotions connected to our programs, I know I sure do!

One practice I learned this summer to recognize my programs for happiness and let go of them before acting out of those programs has been really helpful for me. When I feel an emotional trigger (for me this generally looks like some kind of intense rush of energy directed at fixing something), I try to find time at some point during the day to be alone and work through the experience. Then I more or less follow the process below; which has been named different things by different people. I’ve heard it called “The Welcoming Prayer” or “Going in and down” or just “Inner Awareness Practice.”

  1. Get centered. Take a few deep breaths and relax the tension in my body.
  2. Welcome the emotion. I allow the situation to resurface and begin to notice what I feel in my mind, my heart, and my body when I think of the situation. I don’t try to judge or control any ‘bad’ feelings like anger, embarrassment, I just let those come and welcome them. I am kind to myself and my feelings.
  3. Drop the other, focus on myself. – I let whatever happened drop, either by explaining it to Jesus, or just by focusing on what I’m feeling and experiencing. I stop trying to come up with solutions and strategies or blame for the situation, instead observing what is going on for me and learning from that.
  4. Release the program. – I pray to release the program. Keating recommends saying “I now release my need for power and control, I now release my need for affection and esteem, I now release my need for security and survival.”
  5. Practice gratitude. Ultimately, whether at this point, or at a later time, I’m usually able to say thank you to God and be thankful to the situation which caused me discomfort because the experience gave me greater awareness and freedom.

The practice of recognizing and letting go of my programs for happiness has brought so much freedom into my life. I hope that by sharing with you in this letter you may also know greater self-awareness and freedom to love and serve others.

some friends making polo accessible to the common person

Din India la Galaţi: Creştinism fără frontiere

O prezentare despre Cuvantul Intrupat in Viata Libera: http://www.viata-libera.ro/articol-Crestinism_fara_frontiere_2.html

Celebrating 10 years of Word Made Flesh Romania

Last Friday we invited partners, supporters, staff, board members and representatives of local schools, child protection services and government to join us in a 10-year celebration of Fundația Cuvântul Întrupat (Word Made Flesh Romania).

Although some of important partners did not make it, we were happy that many did. A local business center donated their conference room, and we explained our vision and goals and what we have accomplished over the last 10 years.

Our hope is that through this event those in Galati will know more about us and that we’ll be able to develop more relationships in our local context to support those who are vulnerable and marginalized.

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