Tag Archives: Jeremiah

Pentecost and the Deepest Magic

Pentecost is one of the main inspirations for my faith. I wish it were more “popular” as a holiday. At Pentecost, the truth, the law, the principles of faith are not just “out there,” in a building or in a book; they are all in me. The faith is not settled and static, it is living and everything is on the road, moving, changing and us with it. On Pentecost faith is real, risen and participative.  I see it is the first day of the new creation, the big bang in the little universe of Earth.

Pentecost is still a harvest festival

Some people eat blintzes on Shavuot. A good idea.

For the Jews of Jesus’ time Pentecost was more than just the first fruits of summer harvest festival because it was connected to the Exodus. Fifty days after the Passover and the deliverance from Egypt the people were offered to God as “first fruits;” at Sinai their consecration to the Lord as a nation was completed. So the celebration was also tied to the Ten Commandments and the “giving of the Law.” Jews believe that the law was given after exactly fifty days in the wilderness.

Paul says in Colossians 2:16-17 that the Jewish feasts and celebrations (like Shavuot) were a shadow of the things to come through Jesus Christ. A Christian’s celebration of Pentecost is about the reality that followed the promise of Jesus to his disciples that they would be filled with new life and new purpose. My celebration is about how the prophecy of Jeremiah was fulfilled.

I suppose it is no surprise that the new covenant gets activated with fire on the mountain of Jerusalem like it is a new Sinai. Jeremiah prophesied that a new covenant (or “testament”) was coming. The old covenant was broken. God was planning a new one. See Jeremiah 31. Pentecost celebrates a great new harvest. The holiday is still a harvest feast. But it is a harvest of people. It celebrates how the law is written on our hearts. It is still a festival about receiving the law. But the laws aren’t written in stone or in a book, they are written on hearts. The stone and book still count, but they are shadows of what the Spirit is making real.

Pentecost is a hard holiday to sell

These days Pentecost is a hard holiday to sell. Especially when it falls on Memorial Day weekend! It is a holy day with no special candy or music associated. There are no notable costumes to wear and people rarely put on plays about it. There is no way to make it cute or sentimental. It is very personal and very practical and spiritual. The basic material is: the disciples have this great experience, and immediately are sent on mission, and almost as immediately are in trouble with the authorities after 3000 people are received into the church. And we are to follow in their way. That’s so Christian, Christians can hardly stand it!

CS Lewis had a realistic view of the difficulty of getting people to understand the new covenant. He started by acknowledging a body of law that all humankind shares: everyone seems to agree that fair play, unselfishness, courage, good faith, honesty and truthfulness are good. All the religions have some kind of version of this law. This law obliges us to do the right thing regardless of the pain, danger or difficulty involved. It is a hard law — “as hard as nails” But it is a shadow of the love Jesus is revealing. And the “law” of Jesus is even harder. In a poem he wrote:

Love’s as hard as nails,
Love is nails:
Blunt, thick, hammered through
The medial nerves of One
Who, having made us, knew
The thing He had done,
Seeing (what all that is)
Our cross, and His.

In Lewis’s first Chronicle of Narnia, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (1950), the lion Aslan predicts this hardness of God’s love by promising to save Edmund from the results of treachery. He says: “All shall be done. But it may be harder than you think.” When Aslan and the wicked White Witch discuss her claim on Edmund’s life, she refers to the law of that world as the Deep Magic. Aslan would never consider going against the Deep Magic; instead, he gives himself to die in Edmund’s place, and the next morning comes back to life. Aslan explains to Susan that though the Witch knows the Deep Magic, there is a far deeper magic that she does not know. This deeper magic says that when a willing victim is killed in place of a traitor, death itself begins working backwards. The deepest magic works toward life and goodness.

Pentecost is about the deepest magic working toward life and goodness. We dare not get stuck practicing the “deep magic” that any person can know. As we see, Jesus says, “All shall be done. But it may be harder than you think.” As we immediately see from the history in Acts, it is harder than one might think to be alive with the Spirit in a dying world:

  • to be the presence of the future,
  • to have one’s own love that is hard as nails,
  • to be personally responsible for carrying life and not just let the priest or church take care of it,
  • to have a living faith and not just live a legacy of being a Christian as part of your culture or family.

Pentecost is more than the deep  magic

Most religion is just natural law — love the baby in the manger, justify yourself as not guilty by doing what others think is right. I think the world can sell all sorts of religion based on the “deep magic” that everyone already has an inkling of and that cultures preserve in their laws. But that law is not being the baby, or receiving forgiveness, or speaking out love and forgiveness. It is not receiving the power to work the deepest magic like Jesus.

I like Pentecost because I want to follow Jesus. I don’t want to profess to follow Jesus unless I am working with more than the “deep magic.”

I need the law written on my heart. Being a good person is not enough. I need to be forgiven, to be written on. I need God to write my itinerary and determine my value.

I need to harvest. Attending holy day meetings is not enough. I need to praise God in public like those enthused disciples. I need to form community and include people in it like the first church. I need to come up against the “powers that be” equipped with the truth about Jesus and little more. That’s what happened at Pentecost and happens still.

Afghan War Anniversary

At least someone was out on the streets on the anniversary of the Afghan War yesterday.

http://www.myfoxdc.com/dpp/news/local/100709_protest_marks_afghan_war_anniversary

In the past few years, it has been fascinating to watch the country be muzzled by the new “no news” news which makes every issue a postmodern discussion of equal, red state/blue state opinions. More and more people now get their news from random internet sources who all have a point to push. Dialogue is dead. Everything is marketing.  

Meanwhile there was nary a peep of outrage around here yesterday, on the anniversary of the Afghan war — no lament over the fact that the government is still pouring billions of wasted dollars into the war and still wasting lives in their hopeless cause of domination. I am feeling sorry for Obama, since the previous regime alienated everyone who might have helped (like Iran, Russia, China) and decided we had enough wealth, power and the all-important juevos to fight a perpetual war on terror on our own. They propped up a fake, corrupt “democracy” (again)  and decided the dirt farmers of the Afghan hills would cower before their faceless weapons. Now what does a president do? A fabulous lack of wisdom, a tremendous act of godlessness (in the name of all that is good, of course) is hard to follow.

My sympathy notwithstanding, I am feeling a bit Jeremiah today, as my prayer book lead me to chapter 6:

I appointed watchmen over you and said,
`Listen to the sound of the trumpet!’
But you said, `We will not listen.’
Therefore hear, O nations;
observe, O witnesses,  what will happen to them.
Hear, O earth:  I am bringing disaster on this people,
the fruit of their schemes,
because they have not listened to my words

While I do not think we have responsibility for what the country does, no matter how many times they try to convince us that this is a democracy in some remote representative way, I DO think the people of God have a responsibility to tell others to “listen to the trumpet” and to blow it ourselves at appropriate moments of dire warning. I find it kind of scary when we don’t seem to be “feeling it.”

I suggest we take off our muzzles, slough off our apathy, renew our resentment of godless domination, stoke our concern for people languishing in ignorance of God and their plight, and make sure (at least!) to say a few words of outrage to people who need to hear them today. It might be a good idea to remind a few people that our government has sent soldiers to Afghanistan for eight fruitless years, now; and they are still adventuring in Iraq. Politically, it is disastrous; spiritually, it is hard (even on our least-Jeremiah-like day) to even imagine a connection to Jesus.