Sacrifice: A Response to Violence

Standard

Sacrifice: A Response to Violence

Jason Roebuck

Northwest Christian University

May 7, 2015

Abstract

In this journal, I will attempt to show that in Paul’s letter to the Romans, he starts off the 12th chapter with two verses that have the synopsis of the message of the New Testament to people who are coming to the church today.  I will show that it is our job, or the mission of the faithful to be examples of this living sacrifice.

Paul had witnessed the stoning of Stephen in the beginning of his persecution of the new movement, and this was a signal of the role that Paul would play up to and including his own martyrdom.  I read in article that I googled on the question of why the witnesses laid down their cloaks at the feet of Paul, and the author gave a few different possible reasons, leading up to the fact that in the Old Testament during a ritual sacrifice, the presiding priest would take off his cloak before killing the animal to be sacrificed. (http://www.academia.edu/1089412/The_Meaning_of_the_Phrase_And_the_Witnesses_Laid_Down_Their_Cloaks_in_Acts_7_58_ExpTim_) This may be a stretch, but as I was reading this article online, I got the impression that Luke was trying to draw a comparison to the ritual sacrifice of the Old Testament and the stoning of Stephen.  Even though, the presider, Saul or Paul, would not have been the one to kill the sacrifice, he was the one that was the recognized authority.  Paul admits that later when he retells the story of the stoning of Stephen to Jesus, who had appeared to him in a trance.  “And when the blood of your witness Stephen was being shed, I myself stood by giving my approval and keeping guard over the cloaks of his murderers.”  (Acts 22:20  NABRE)

I hopefully have laid the groundwork for my interpretation of the two verses that begin the 12th chapter of Paul’s letter to the Romans.  In it he says that we are to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice, and I believe that he is telling the Romans that no matter what happens, they must be willing to submit to the will of God.  The second verse says, “Do not be conformed to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.”  (Romans 12:2  NABRE)  I think if Stephen was given a choice of whether he was the first martyr, after the Resurrection, or live to an old age like John the Apostle, he would have chosen to live to an old age.  “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”  (John 15:13  NABRE)  He chose to give up his life and it was God’s will that Paul was there to be a witness to the first ritual sacrifice of many sacrifices to come, including Paul himself.  Stephen’s death would signal the beginning of the demonstration of his disciples willingness to give up their life in this world, because of the promise of the life to come, and the perfect example of Christ’s own sacrifice.

As we witness the murder of Christians today on live video feed from countries that have been friendly to his disciples for generations, I think we can draw strength from their courage in the face of martyrdom.  It is unlike the courage of Stephen, who most likely met Jesus and saw his resurrected body, they have a hope that is based on a living witness of a body of Christ that stands with them ready to die with them.  We are hopefully displaying courage by showing compassion to the perpetrators of these heinous acts.  It is my hope and prayer that the people who commit these acts will receive his mercy and forgiveness and come to the realization that we have this promise from Paul’s second letter to Timothy. “For God did not give us the spirit of cowardice but rather of power and love and self-control.  So do not be ashamed of your testimony to our Lord, nor of me, a prisoner for his sake; but bear your share of hardship for the gospel with the strength that comes from God.”  (2 Timothy 1:7-8  NABRE)

A Different Way of Looking at People…

Standard

When I read Paul’s words about the way the body of Christ is supposed to look, I don’t believe he is saying that we need to spend a bunch of time finding out who has what talent and how the church can use these talents to share the gospel with the world.  I see Paul saying to the church in Ephesus and to the church in Corinth that they should see everyone in terms of the value that God has given to their lives and not what their eyes have given them by observation.  I see the symbolism that Paul uses of the different parts of the body to help us understand something very profound.  It is through the parts of our body that seem to be insignificant during certain jobs, and can actually be really significant if we tried to do those jobs without them.  In the same way, all people are of value to the body of Christ, even though we may not see the value they have at the time that they come into our view.  We may see an addict, or a divorced mom of three children, or a single man who has lived in his car for the past 20 years, but God sees a beloved sons or daughters that have eternal value that may or may not ever be visible to us.

In Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, he says “If a foot should say, ‘Because I am not a hand I do not belong to the body,’ it does not for this reason belong to the body.”  (1 Corinthians 12:15  NABRE)  He is reminding us that people who find themselves outside of the body of Christ cannot be justified when they say they don’t belong, because they have yet to find their value inside the body.  For this reason, the church should see every person with the value that they have as a child of God and not with the value that they have been given by the world that we live in.  As we know, it is very difficult to discern your value as a child of God while acting outside of the body of Christ.  Paul says that should honor the parts that have not been shown honor, so there is no division in the body.  At least that is way that I read the second part of the 24th verse of the 12th chapter of his letter to the Corinthians, and I think when we are doing church correctly, that you see the people who the world would consider weak, being honored.

At the end of the 12th chapter of Paul’s 1st letter to the Corinthians, he says that he will show them a still more excellent way.  This still more excellent way, is the Crux that our professor talked about in his first video, and it is about loving others in the way that the Father loves us.  I heard it said once that the way that we should read the explanation of God’s love in the 13th chapter of the first letter to the Corinthians is by inserting our name every time he says, “Love”.  It is a challenge, but it is a challenge that is worth taking to see the world and everyone in it through the loving eyes of the Father, instead of our judgmental human eyes.

From Jason to John…

Standard

(This is a journal that I wrote for my Biblical Themes of the New Testament class)

A Conversion Story from Paul to Jason

Jason Roebuck

Northwest Christian University

May 2, 2015

Abstract

The question that I chose to write my answer to, is the first question.  I spent a lot of time thinking about the things that I could say in response to the question of Paul’s strong conversion story that is told in the 9th chapter of the Acts of the Apostles.  The question asks me to discuss the pros and cons of a strong conversion story, and then consider how it relates to my story.  Since my conversion started over 20 years ago and is still an ongoing experience, it was difficult to consider how his conversion relates to mine.  This paper is my attempt at explaining why Paul’s strong conversion was necessary, and my conversion is still an ongoing process.

The idea of a person who adamantly opposes a movement and then becomes one of its strongest supporters, is a pretty benign concept to someone who understands a little about psychology.  As children of God, we all struggle against the one thing that will save us, thereby creating a cause for us to act upon until we receive the grace to stop struggling.  Paul says in his letter to the Romans, and he was speaking to Christians in Rome after his conversion.  However, I believe the same contradiction existed in him from the beginning, as it does in all of us.  “For I do not do the good I want, but I do the evil I do not want.”  (Romans 7:19 NABRE)  The cause that most of us act upon is selfishness, but if we stopped to think about what really brings us happiness and joy, it is selflessness.  If we did the things that bring joy to others, and not to ourselves, we would be truly full of joy, but too often we choose the things that would make us temporarily happy.

Paul, when he was known as Saul, went on a mission to attack the one thing that could save him, the Christian movement.  The movement that was created by God to disciple the world with people who were uniquely his own through their relationship with his son, Jesus.  In his case, as we saw in the retelling of the murder of Stephen, he was not always out front in the attack against the Christian movement, but he chose to be out front to stand up for the cause that he believed was just.  “They threw him out of the city, and began to stone him. The witnesses laid down their cloaks at the feet of a young man named Saul.”  (Acts 7:58)  In his case, he had formed his life’s mission around the destruction of a people who were in opposition to his faith.  God knew the fortitude that was won in Paul through years of training in the Jewish faith, and dramatically changed his path to bring him to a new understanding and leave the path of wickedness behind, because God knew that movement needed his unique gifts.

For me, God knew the weakness and lack of obedience that had been won through years of neglect and lack of discipline over the first 18 years.  So, it was a slow and deliberate conversion over the past 25 years.  I think this is the case for most Christians today, God chooses to make our conversions much more deliberate and gives us the opportunity to choose to follow at every step.  However, as I spoke with a college age convert recently, I realized that the blinding conversion of Paul may be becoming more necessary to keep new disciples from getting lost in this self-obsessed culture that is so pervasive in all aspects of life.  My conversion was not like Paul’s or Saul’s, but I can definitely see that God has used the events in my life to make me aware that there is another mission for me that is beyond what the world would offer.  A mission that calls me by name to do a work that I would not choose for myself, but I follow because I know it is God’s will.

References

The New American Bible, Revised Edition (March 9th, 2011)

God is still calling me “John” and telling me to “Go”, and I hope that I am still following his will…At least most of the time…Glory to God in the highest…Peace to all the people on earth!

How does he love us?

Standard

It was a normal day, where I read the daily readings and did some homework for one of the classes that I am currently taking to finish my degree at Northwest Christian University.  banner-about-21I didn’t notice too much from the readings today, other than the call to deeper conversion and courage in the face of persecution.  However, when I got to our communion service this morning, I realized that there was a greater call to unity that is happening in the readings today.  Thanks in large part to our retired pastoral ministry director, Milly Pungercar.  She was leading the communion service this morning, and she pointed out the call to unity that was in the first reading.  On first reading it for me earlier this morning, I couldn’t get past the word “Christian” and realizing that even Christians are not called by only that name anymore.  We are called by the name “Catholic” or “Protestant” or even “traditionalist” or “liberal”.  She pointed out that we are called to be unified, and sometimes that is hard. We have to give up some things that are part of our culture in the interest of unity.  When the first “Christians” came to Antioch, they had to unify a Greek and Jewish culture around a faith that was based on a Jewish Messiah.  This could not have been easy, but they relied on the Holy Spirit and it was done in the name of Jesus Christ and the good news spread all over the world because of the power to unify that came from God. I received a picture a lot of years back that I thought was beautiful, but never really understood what made it so great.  It has never really been a part of my life, other than the fact that it was located under the bed in my room ever since the frame it was in broke.  Recently, our family moved into another home that is much bigger and more comfortable for us, and I took this picture out and really noticed it for the first time.  Keep in mind, I have had this picture for probably 20 years, and have been thinking about putting it in a frame again for the past few years, but have never found the right one.  It all came together, not perfectly, but it came together this past week.

Am I not your Mother, and is He not your Father?

Am I not your Mother, and is He not your Father?

The Virgin Mary said to Saint Juan Diego, over 500 years ago, the words that should still resonate to us today…”Am I not your Mother?”  The words that I hear her saying to me today are, “Is He not your Father?”  The reading from the Morning Prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours for today ended with the words, “You are my son, this day I have begotten you.”  I heard them for the first time, as if he was talking to me.  It was a verse from the Acts of the Apostles, but it was quoting the 2nd Psalm.

I will proclaim the decree of the LORD,

he said to me, “You are my son;

today I have begotten you.  (Psalm 2:7)

My pastor reminded us recently while we were praying the Liturgy of the Hours that when we read the Psalms, we can read them as if they are the words of Jesus talking to God.  This morning, however, I heard the words of the Father talking to me, because of the fact that I am his brother, makes me the adopted son of the same Father.  With all the duties and benefits of a son, but most importantly a relationship with Him as a loving Father, who not only created me once, but is giving me breath and life even at this moment to be able to share this message with you.

Before I started writing this morning, I went over to the church to pray in front of the Divine Mercy image.  I wanted to pray for the words to share with a group of young adults that are getting together for a retreat at the end of this week.  I noticed that as I knelt down in front of the image and contemplated whether I should pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy before beginning to write out the words that I would share, I heard the familiar word that God had spoken to me before in my heart when I knelt down to pray.  The word was, “Go!”  The emphasis added was my own.  He actually said it in my heart, as if a Father was saying you should just go to work and get it done.  As I walked out of the church, it was if he was saying to me, “You trust me to give you the words and I will be faithful to supply them, if you would only just ‘Go’.”

So, what does any of this have to do with the “Divine Mercy”?  There are four books that I have read over the past few years.  Two of them I read as a retreat and then shared them with a Confirmation group in a youth ministry setting, and two of them I just read.  The last two, I admit, because I read them over a longer period of time, so I feel called to go back and read them both again.  All four of them I will recommend to you, but for different reasons, but all to the same end. Let me explain…

The first book is the “33 Days to Morning Glory”, 33DAY_pwhich is a book/retreat that leads you to Marian Consecration.  It is written by Father Michael Gaitley, and it is based on the Marian Consecration retreat by Saint Louis de Montfort.  The second book is “Consoling the Heart of Jesus”, CHJ3dwhich is based on the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius Loyola and can also be done as a retreat.  I actually took my staff retreat days two years ago to sit in the Adoration Chapel at Saint Mary’s and do this retreat.  It was also written by Father Michael Gaitley.  The third book is “The One Thing is Three”. onethingisthree-top It is subtitled, “How the Most Holy Trinity Explains Everything”, and it is a thorough and intense study of how the Holy Trinity explains everything, even though the author, who happens to be, Father Michael Gaitley again, says that his knowledge of the Trinity is nothing compared to the great wealth of knowledge of the great Saints like Saint Thomas Aquinas.  He does an amazing job explaining that everything relates back to how God relates to us.  Finally, the last book recommendation is “You Did It To Me”.you-did-to-me-1021181  It is also subtitled, “The Practical Guide to Mercy in Action.”  You probably guessed it by now, if you didn’t already know it, it was written by Father Michael Gaitley.  You could read all of these books in order or pick one and pray about how to read it and then follow the direction that the Holy Spirit will guide you to consume these great works of mercy.  They all lead you to the same place, which is a greater understanding of how God is working in the world through his mercy to transform us all into living works of mercy.

This is the way it works for me, and I believe Father Michael would say that same.  It is the Marian Consecration (33 Days to Morning Glory) that leads us to Divine Mercy (Consoling the heart of Jesus), and the Divine Mercy that leads us to a relationship with a loving Father (The One Thing Is Three), and the relationship with the Father that allows us to share his love with others (You Did It to Me).  It does not have to follow this pattern for you, but that is the way that the Holy Spirit has been revealing the truth to me about his Divine Mercy, and I challenge you all to learn all you can about his love, because it is good to be known as the sons and daughters of our benevolent God.

Finally, I will leave you with a talk that was given by Father Michael Gaitley entitled “The Second Greatest Story Ever Told”, because in it you get a glimpse of how and why God wants to use us to be messengers and ministers of his divine mercy…

This song…I love it!

Standard

I love it even more after I did this, this morning…My challenge for you today is to try and hear this song as it relates to our being married to Christ or the bride of Christ, which is the church, and the opportunity to come together with a priest in the Holy Sacrament of Reconciliation as the chance to be “Broken Together”…

What do you think?

The Non-Curated Path of Holy Week

Standard

Jason:

One of the best I’ve read in a while…

Originally posted on Charlotte was Both:

This is my contribution for today to Living Faith Lent.  I figured that since the season is about over, I won’t be depriving them of any sales by reprinting this.

March 29

I gave my back to those who beat me,
my cheeks to those who plucked my beard;
my face I did not shield
from buffets and spitting. 
Is. 50:6

Left to my own devices, and within the context of my responsibilities, I can essentially design – or, as the fashionable say these days, “curate”  my own life.  I can listen to what I want, turn off what disturbs me and tune out what don’t want to see or hear.  I can, if I choose, live in a bubble, as clear or opaque as I want it to be.

But not this week.

This week, this Holy Week, I am thrust into the crowds.  Crowds that welcome, then…

View original 86 more words