Three on the Trinity

The following are three posts in a series on the Trinity in faith and practice. I’m putting them together here for consolidation purposes.

Trinitarian Faith

Trinitarian Community

Trinitarian Mission

Advertisements

Tetelestai

“After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit” (John 19:28-30 ESV).

Decades ago ancient receipts were found in Egypt. Written in Greek, those paid in full were marked “tetelestai,” meaning the debt or price was fully paid. That this would be the last word of Jesus (or its equivelent, considering that he likely spoke Aramaic) is significant.

Bearing the weight of his mission to Israel and through Israel to the world, Jesus went to the cross. Facing the casually precise cruelty of the Roman oppressors and the calculated deceit of the Jewish leaders, Jesus was suspended between heaven and earth as a sign of God’s judgment against sin in general and Israel’s failure in particular. Israel’s time as a nation was limited, judgment would come in a matter of decades upon Jerusalem and a new people of God would be formed of those willing to take up their crosses and follow the Messiah.

Waves of the sin of centuries crashed over him until all its force was spent. Completing his work and discharging his duty of mercy and justice, he fulfilled all prophecies and accomplished the victory of the ages.

Mennonite Exodus

Many Mennonites are leaving Missouri, my home state, because of a law requiring photos for driver licenses. Having grown up near several families of Mennonites, the sort that drive black cars with no radios and wear semi-traditional garb, I find this disappointing. They are good neighbors, and being well-known as committed pacifists they shouldn’t be held to standards meant to screen out terrorists.

Then again, thank God they live in a federalist country where the states still have at least some semblance of autonomy. In many countries, like Brazil, most laws are national and thus it is much more difficult to find a place more congenial to the lifestyle you want to live without leaving the country.

Re-Brand


For a year now I’ve been working for Cingular Wireless in the National Business Services division. Now the company is changing names…again. It’s going to be “the new AT&T.” So, a re-branding effort is underway. If you live in the United States you’ve probably seen or heard the commercials. The brand name Cingular will run alongside AT&T in ads for a few months, and then the company will pull away the Cingular name and retire it, along with the orange Jack.

Re-branding. Sometimes its done because the former company name had developed a negative reputation, and other times because a bigger brand name can be more profitable. Nowadays a lot of people who seek to follow Jesus are trying a variety of re-branding, in that they are dropping the name word “church” from their group’s name.

What I’m talking about ranges from simply modifying a church name to avoid unpleasant connotations to even referring to Christians as “Jesus followers” because the former descriptor has been dragged through the mud of centuries.

As for “Christian,” I don’t think it has to be used in evangelism against all common sense, but Christians have a duty to try to redeem the name rather than just drop it because they can’t live up to it. Where church names come in, I don’t mind it at all if I see a church using a culturally-appropriate name that describes who they are.

In any case, I’ve noticed the community (both inside the congregation and outside) eventually attaches the name on somewhere. In poplular use “The Gathering” easily becomes referred to as “The Gathering Church,” “The Journey” becomes “Journey Church,” and even an Assembly of God congregation becomes “Assembly of God Church” (rather redundant, though).

That’s just my two cents.

Considering the Options

Kristy had been attending North River Free Will Baptist Church off and on since childhood, and Tom had only begun a few months before when he came to believe in Christ. Both had stories to tell, and they gave their testimonies just before being baptized during Sunday evening worship.

Tom’s tale was mostly about having never cared about anyone or anything but himself, and when he saw a televangelist on TV preach about hell, he got scared. The thought of endless suffering drove him to his knees, begging God’s acceptance. Kristy talked about having believed in Jesus, but never really taking him or the Christian life seriously. She drank, smoked, partied and did pretty much whatever she wanted. It was methamphetamines and several months in jail that got her to rock bottom, and it was then that she realized that either she had to opt for God or continue on the ruinous path she was following.

Both were baptized that day, and life went on. What’s interesting to me is how people evaluate their options in life. Fallen humans want gratification on their own terms, and the very last thing anyone wants is a relationship with God. Kristy tried sex, drugs and a riotous lifestyle and stayed with it until she could see no way out other than in God. Tom could only be brought to repentance by the fear of hell. In other words, if Kristy could have found lasting happiness in wanton indulgence rather than in Christ, she would have popped more pills, lit up, taken another swig and found someone to go to bed with her. As for Tom, I like the way C.S. Lewis puts it:

“It is hardly complimentary to God that we should choose Him as an alternative to Hell: yet even this He accepts.”C.S. Lewis in The Problem of Pain.

God is the ultimate good. If we knew what was best for us and really wanted our own good, we would seek Him. Some do, but so often the reason to choose Him is simply that nothing else has worked, and we’ve messed things up. It’s odd to think of someone actually weighing their options, with God in one hand and hell in the other, trying to decide which unpleasant option is less bothersome. Yet, that’s what most people seem to do.

Somehow, God accepts even this. C.S. Lewis called it “Divine humility” that God would accept people who had nothing left to offer on such dismal terms. He does it though, time and again. Whatever their motives, Kristy and Tom made the right decision.