An 8-Year-Old Superhero

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Last Friday was the first day with my Lunch Buddy for the new school year.  The “Lunch Buddies Program,”  part of “Big Brothers Big Sisters,” matches a volunteer with an elementary age child.

This is the 3rd year my lunch buddy and I have been buddies.  We eat lunch together, talk, play “Sorry” (his rules), go to the playground and play tag (with my inhaler handy), slide down the slides, swing on the swings, monkey across the monkey bars.

I love that 30 minutes a week.

I love that kid.

 

The idea is for the volunteer to help the kid.  You know, though, it goes both ways.  More times than not, he’s more a “helper” to me than I am to him.

Friday, he was the helper, the teacher, the adult.  I was the kid.

 

We were in the school library, eating lunch while playing a game.   I noticed a new book on display – a book on Superman.

So, I said, “If I were a superhero, I’d love to fly. Just run down the street, jump up and fly!”

I posed the question to him, “What would you do if you were a superhero?”

 

I was expecting web-spinning or wall-climbing like Spiderman.

Super strength like the Incredible Hulk.

X-ray vision like Superman.

Self-healing like the Wolverine.

Having cool stuff like Batman.

 

But no.  He went a totally different direction.

 

Here is his answer.

You ready?

“I’d like to help people,” he said.  

 

Boom!  

 

I felt small enough to crawl under the kid-sized library table at which we were sitting.

I was schooled.

 

“Your answer is a lot better than mine!” I told him raising my hand to give him a fist-bump.  

 

And it was.  No doubt.  

 

Is this what Jesus meant when he held up a child and said, “The kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children” (Luke 18:16)?

 

My lunch buddy doesn’t know this verse but he certainly lives it: “All the others care only for themselves and not for what matters to Jesus Christ” (Philippians 2:21).  

 

I knew the verse but wasn’t living it.

 

When I left the school, my lunch buddy hugged me and said, “Thank you for coming to see me.”  

“You’re welcome,” I responded, ”Thank you for teaching me today.”

What Color is God’s Skin

“What Color is God’s Skin” is the title of a song from the folk era of the 60s, by the group Up With People. Yes, I remember the song well…

The color of God’s skin and Santa’s skin came up this week  on “The Kelly File” with Megyn Kelly.  Ms Kelly says that both Santa and Jesus are white.

Ms Kelly was responding to an article by Aisha Harris in “Slate” in which Ms Harris writes a personal account of her childhood feelings of exclusion brought on by the culturally created white Santa.  Ms Harris suggests a more inclusive Santa – a Penguin.

Ms Kelly and the panel didn’t think much of the idea.  You can see their discussion here.  Personally, I don’t have any trouble grasping a Penguin Claus.  Once you give a guy magical elves and the power to squeeze his roly-poly body down billions of chimneys in one night, anything is possible.

I do have a bit of trouble with Ms Kelly’s assertion that Jesus is white.  After presenting her view that Santa is white, she said, “Jesus was a white man, too.  It’s like we have, he’s a historical figure, that’s a verifiable fact, as is Santa, I just want kids to know that…”

Yes, our view of Santa comes courtesy of Coca Cola and Clement Moore, and Santa is white in those depictions.  No argument there.

But Jesus’ race?  Behold the power of pictures. European art throughout the centuries have shown Jesus as a white man.  It stuck.  Pick up one of those “Bible Story” books in a Sunday School classroom and you’ll see a white Jesus on the pages.  The baby Jesus in the manger of our Nativity on the buffet in our dining room is white, blond-haired, blue-eyed and rosy-cheeked.   Millions of people watched The History Channel’s The Bible and they saw a light-skinned Jesus.

Does it matter?  I think so.  It matters historically and theologically.
Christianity is an historical faith.  It is rooted in historically verifiable events.  We value that.  So, let’s value what history teaches us about Jesus’ race.  Jesus was Jewish.   Jesus lived in Palestine.  In 2001 a team of British anthropologists and forensic scientists created a hypothetical model of Jesus’ face based on the skull of a first century Jew.  Guess what.  He’s not white. Some people are uncomfortable with that? Wonder why?

Let’s be true to history.

Theologically, it matters. It’s interesting to me that every culture makes Jesus look like them.  African Jesus.  Asian Jesus.  Touchdown Jesus.  Why?  I think it has something to do with the incarnation – you know, what Christmas is all about.
God becoming one of us.
God connecting to, identifying with – becoming us!  WOW!
God-in-the-flesh.

These different portrayals of Jesus help us to get our hearts around the theological truth that God knows us, understands us, identifies with us.
He gets us.
Because He became us.  All of us.

So, what color is God’s skin?  I’m happy with the answer given in the rest of the song: It is black, brown, yellow, it is red and it is white.  Everyone’s the same in the good Lord’s sight.

Jesus Fought the Law and the Law Lost

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Headlines like the one above really irritate some people.  “How dare they pick and choose?!”  But be honest.  We all pick and choose.  Who among us obey all 613 commands of the Mosaic law?  That’s right.  Some people believe that the Law is just the Ten Commandments.  Actually, the Law of Moses contains 613 commandments covering everything from blood sacrifices to men’s haircuts to sewage disposal to charging interest on loans.

The New Testament seems to take a few steps further than the Supreme Court:

Romans 6:14: For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.

Romans 7:4: So, my brothers and sisters, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God.  

Galatians 2:19: For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God.

Romans 7:6: But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.

Galatians 3:24-45: So the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith.  Now that this faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian

Colossians 2:14: ...having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross.

Hebrews 8:13: By calling this covenant “new,” he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and outdated will soon disappear.

Hebrews 10:9:  He sets aside the first to establish the second.

Romans 10:4:  For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.

Ephesians 2:14-15:  For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances…

Not under law; died to the law; dying to what once bound us;  released from the law; no longer under a guardian; nailed to the cross; obsolete; set aside; Christ is the end of the law; abolishing the law.  Strong words.  Clear communication.

I can hear the objections: “But wait!  What about Matthew 5:17-19? Take that!  See, the law is still in effect.  We’re still supposed to follow it.”  Jesus said,  Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished…”

Well, this is confusing.  Paul says Jesus abolished the law (Ephesians 2:15) and Jesus says he has not come to abolish the law!  What’s up?

Back it up.  Jesus did say the law would disappear when two things happened: 1. heaven and earth will disappear,  and, 2. everything is accomplished.   When those two things happen, the law is out of here! It’s gone. So long.  See ya later.  Gone like Roger Daltrey’s shirt.

#2 – Everything is accomplished –  At a key moment Jesus announced that everything was finished – at that moment. “It is finished.” John 19:30

#1 – Heaven and earth will disappear – Well, that obviously means a literal heaven and earth disappearing. Doesn’t it?  Maybe not.
If “heaven and earth” refers to a literal, physical heaven and earth, then, yep, the Law of Moses has not passed – it’s still alive and kicking.  But I believe that “heaven and earth” is a metaphor for political or national systems.  Take a look at these references:
Isaiah 1:1-2; Isaiah 24:3-6; Isaiah 34:3-5; Hebrews 12:26-28; Matthew 24:29; Luke 21:32-33

In the last two references Jesus wasn’t speaking of a physical heaven and earth but of a system – a way of doing things – the Mosaic Covenant with its laws, sacrifices, priesthood, tabernacle (Hebrews  9:8-11).  Jesus was speaking of the fall of Jerusalem that would happen about 40 years later in A.D. 70 when God removed the things that could be shaken and in their place gave His people a Kingdom which can never be moved (Hebrews 12:18-28).

Luke 21:32-33 contains the same elements as Matthew 5:17-19 – the disappearance of heaven and earth and everything accomplished.

Jesus and Paul are not in conflict with one another.  Heaven and earth – the system under the Mosaic covenant disappeared bringing on the abolishment of the law!!!!

So, I guess we can just let ourselves go wild?!  God, as always, has this covered;
So Christ has truly set us free.  Now make sure you stay free, and don’t get tied up again in slavery to the law…For you have been called to live in freedom … but don’t use your freedom to satisfy your flesh.  Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love…So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide our lives.  Then you won’t be doing what your flesh craves (Galatians 5:1-16).

The law or the Holy Spirit?  What is our choice?