The Garden Motif

It was garden dirt we were made from and in that garden, man learned his purpose and reason for being. In that same garden, Adam and all his posterity fell. However, before being cast out and blocked from the garden fallen man heard the promise of Redemption in that garden.

That promise was called a seed.

Ever since then fallen man has sought to return to the garden in his own power — his timeless quest for Utopia. But only God can provide our desire for the garden.

Israel never forgot its garden origins. It carried a garden Tabernacle through its desert journey. Israel finally arrived in a garden land flowing with milk and honey and later when they built a Temple to replace the Tabernacle the garden motif was everywhere in the Temple. The Priests of Israel were adorned in garden garments, complete with the precious stones of Eden’s garden woven into the garments.

When the Lord Christ arrived He met his greatest temptation in a garden. In that Gethsemane garden, Jesus refused what Adam embraced when Adam was in his garden.

The Lord Christ as the promised seed died by a garden that He was eventually planted in, only to spring up from that garden and mistaken for a gardener.

Christ rose from that garden and provides the abundant life that only a garden can give. He is the garden vine that reproduces itself in the Father’s garden vineyard. His people are the fruit of that vine and that vine will cover the world.

From a garden, we came and unto a garden, we return in that New Jerusalem garden. There we find that the leaves of the trees in that garden are for the healing of the nations.

Family Member Funeral Closing Prayer

God of the ages … God of the living and of those who are alive in Christ we thank you for your sovereignty in the giving of life and your sovereignty in the taking of life. We thank you that because of the finished work of Jesus Christ that those whose lives you take are taken to the end of resting from their work you set them apart for awhile in this life.

We thank you, Father, that the sting of death does not have the final word but that because of Christ’s resurrection we have the certainty that we will be gathered again with the saints who have gone before and who now live in your presence.

We thank you for the Gospel — the promises of God — wherein the penalty of our sin was borne by Christ thereby ensuring the promise of your acceptance of us for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ as our Surety.

We thank you for the life and times of Karen. We thank you for how she fulfilled your purposes. We thank you for the gift she was to her parents upon her birth. We thank you for the blessing she was to Tommy and all of her family through the decades. We thank you that in your infinite wisdom you have gathered her to yourself and all the saints. We thank you for the promise that a time is coming when the circle shall be unbroken.

We ask now for your comfort for Tommy and for the whole family. Grant us grace to grieve, but not to grieve as those without hope. Be pleased to remind us all Father that our times are in your hands and that when those times have come to an end you call blessed those who die in the Faith once delivered to the Saints.

We ask that you would sustain those who are most wounded by Karen’s passing and that you would open before them the doors wherein they should walk in the future. Give them hope Father. Grant them your peace that passes all understanding. Given them wisdom for the days ahead.

We thank you for our undoubted catholic Christian faith which doubles our time of joy and braces us to continue on in times of sorrow.

In our majestic Lord Christ’s name, we pray,

Amen.

Was Judas Predestined to Betray Christ? … Answering a Pastor’s Objection

“Things Jesus never said:
 
Judas, I wanted to let you know that my Father has predestined you to betray me, so it’s really not your fault.”
 
Rev. Duncan Bryant
 
Bret responds,
 
 This statement was made tongue in cheek but I thought I would answer it as if someone really did believe that because Judas was predestined to betray Christ therefore he it was really not his fault.
 
Turning to the matter at hand we know from Scripture that the final days of the life of Jesus on earth were foreordained to include the betrayal of Judas, just as were the cross and resurrection (Mark 14:17-21; Acts 1:16 and Psalm 109:5-8).
 
17 And in the evening He came with the twelve. 18 And as they sat and ate, Jesus said, “Verily I say unto you, one of you who eateth with Me shall betray Me.” 19 And they began to be sorrowful and to say unto Him one by one, “Is it I?” And another said, “Is it I?” 20 And He answered and said unto them, “It is one of the twelve that dippeth with Me in the dish. 21 The Son of Man indeed goeth, as it is written of Him; but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! Good were it for that man if he had never been born.”
 
Jesus went as it was written and every detail that led Jesus to the Cross was planned as well. Judas’ role was understood as ordained as seen by Peter’s words in Acts 1,
16 “Men and brethren, it was necessary that this Scripture be fulfilled, which the Holy Ghost by the mouth of David spoke before concerning Judas, who was the guide to those who took Jesus.
 
In Psalm 109 Luther found Messianic material touching on Judas’ role. The heading given for the contents of this inspired poem is in a modern Luther’s German Bible: “Prophecy Concerning Judas and the Unfaithfulness against Christ by the Jews, and Their Curse.” Luther in a collection entitled: “The Four Psalms of Comfort,” dedicated to Queen Mary of Hungary, in the beginning of his exposition of this Psalm wrote: “David composed this psalm about Christ, who speaks the entire psalm in the first person against Judas, his betrayer, and against Judaism as a whole, describing their ultimate fate. In Acts 1:20 Peter applied this Psalm to Judas when they were selecting Matthias to replace him.” So, even though Rev. Bryant as a Pastor doesn’t see God’s plan in Judas’ work, Rev. Martin Luther saw God’s plan in Judas’ work.
 
Clearly, if Luther is right that the Psalmist speaks of Judas as the betrayer then what else can we conclude that God determined for Judas to betray Jesus? Both Jesus and Peter, as well as the Psalmist, in the above passages, verify that Judas was specifically chosen for the job of betrayal. Following Scripture then we rightly insist that Judas was predestined, called, elected, and/or chosen to betray Jesus.
 
And of course, we can’t forget Peter’s sermon,
 
Acts 2:23 He (Jesus) was handed over by God’s set plan and foreknowledge, and you, by the hands of the lawless, put Him to death by nailing Him to the cross.
 
Now it beggars the imagination that God planned the actual crucifixion of Christ without planning every particular moment to that end including Judas’ betrayal. If I plan an omelet I also must plan to break eggs. If God planned to hand over His Son then God planned the means by which the Son was to be handed over. So, Judas had no free will. However, this does not mean Judas had no choice in the matter.
 
The Westminster Confession teaches regarding causation,
 
ii. Although in relation to the foreknowledge and decree of God, the first Cause, all things come to pass immutably, and infallibly; yet, by the same providence, He ordereth them to fall out, according to the nature of second causes, either necessarily, freely, or contingently.
 
A “second cause” is simply “a cause caused by something else.” This expression is used in theology to distinguish between God as the ultimate cause of everything that comes to pass and the myriad smaller causes we see at work in the world. If I drop a cup of water gravity is the secondary cause that causes it to fall, but God is the one who causes gravity. He is the primary cause.
 
Judas was a secondary cause of Christ’s crucifixion. As a secondary cause, Judas did what he desired to do because of his fallen human nature. But behind Judas’ free choice was the God who ordains all things to come to pass. We certainly don’t believe that when Judas betrayed Christ, the Father said to Himself, “WOW, I did not see that coming,?” or, “Well, that wasn’t in the plan but I’ll work around it somehow.” Only a free will theist “reasons” that way.
 
Next, we would say that Judas was responsible (at fault) simply because God held Judas responsible. God is the creator and by being the creator all are responsible to Him simply because He holds them responsible. Can Judas say to the creator, “Why did you make me this way?”
 
So, we know, from Scripture that the eternal predestinating God did ordain Judas to betray Christ and that Judas remained responsible for this betrayal. All of this is why Scripture could call Judas, “The Son of perdition.”
 
This title of Judas (John 17:2), which he shares in Scripture with the Anti-Christ (2 Thessalonians 2:3) is a well known Hebrew idiom whereby someone who embodies a trait or characteristic or destiny is called the son of that trait, character or destiny. The name “Son of perdition,” as applied to both Judas and the antichrist represents them both as given over irrecoverably and totally to the final perdition; and this from the foundations of time since it was God’s destiny for them. A destiny they very much freely chose.
 
God predestined Judas from his conception to his hanging himself inclusive of his betrayal of Christ. To believe otherwise introduces us to a non omnipotent God and a completely different definition at all points of the Christian faith. 

On Pit-bulls and Love

Recently, I experienced all the joy of being attacked by a pit-bull and the subsequent delight of recovering from a significant dog bite. The whole experience got me thinking about the modern idea of “love” vis-a-vis an older idea of love. Allow me to explain.

A couple of days after the event I was contacted by the area Animal Control people who informed me that the dog would not be put down. Initially, I was good with that since I know the animal in question is a pet to some young children who doubtlessly love the animal. Having been a child once (it’s true… really) and having loved my own pets when a child I know that I would not have wanted my pet put down upon an incident that my parents told me was “not typical for the dog.” (Something I was told immediately after the incident by the owners while I sat dazed on the road.)

This is the love of seen consequences. I have compassion for the children (no, I don’t have any compassion for the criminal dog) and out of that compassion, I don’t want to see their feelings hurt.

However, this could also be called hatred in terms of unseen consequences of my agreeing to a lenient approach with the animal in question. The neighborhood that I live in, and where this happened is teeming with children. My agreement for lenient treatment for this animal, while putatively loving to its owners (the seen consequence) is potentially hateful to the next child or person who is attacked and bitten by the dog. My leniency has the consequence of endangering some unseen future person who could share my fate since I was so full of compassion for the children for whom the dog was a pet. I’ve had compassion for the children at the expense of showing a lack of compassion for some future child or person. If somebody else is bitten by this creature, you can be sure I am going to be kicking myself for being so “nice.” This thought has grown exponentially in my musings when I learned the data showing that nearly two-thirds of all dog-bite fatalities come from pit-bulls and this in spite of their only comprising six percent of America’s dog population.

Now, enlarge this idea on a grander scale and see the impact of this. For years we practiced a love wherein we thought about the unseen consequences. For example, in our social order and culture, for years if a young woman was pregnant out of wedlock, she would disappear from school and perhaps be sent to some relative who lived away from the community in question. Help could still be expected but it would help via the back door and not the front door. We look back on that now and think about how unloving that action was and we do so because we have forgotten the love that was being shown to other young ladies who were not pregnant and who may be less likely to engage in the behavior that resulted in the social ostracism of one of their friends. Like my action with the pit-bull which bit me, we are “loving” according to seen consequences and not loving according to unseen consequences.

Today, we don’t do anything to communicate such an action as a taboo because to do so would not be “loving,” just as my not wanting to put the dog that bit me down was loving to one party but unloving to some potential future person.

Love is seldom a zero-sum game. When we offer some version of love to one person we see we very often deprive love to some person who is unseen and not being taken into consideration. When we offer “love” by not visiting capital crimes with capital punishment we show “love” to the criminal but we withhold our love to God and the victim’s family. When we offer “love” to the illegal alien by the spending of our non-infinite nation’s resources we are with-holding our love to the citizen. And when I show love to the children of the pit-bull, I may well be showing a lack of love to the next person who may well be mauled more than I was.

 

God’s Family Meal

“Meals can transcend time. Taste, and particularly smell, can evoke intense memories and take us immediately back to the last time we experienced the same flavor and aroma. Ritual meals celebrated the same way with the same food, drink, format every year can connect the decades together in ways that nothing else does — so an American family celebrating Thanksgiving in 2017 is closer, in many ways, to Thanksgiving 1917 than it is to the previous Tuesday.”

Charles Taylor 
A Secular Age 

If we are looking to see how families are connected to the generations who have gone before as we live our lives in everyday reality, we have only to look to the times shared around the dining room table during celebratory mealtimes. These kinds of meals were not merely about stuffing one’s face but they brought families together across generational lines. All of us still remember the family reunions characterized by shared meals. All of us still remember those family holiday meals we shared with our Grandparents and maybe even great-Grandparents. And now some of us are at the age they were when we remember those family meals and we are providing the echoes of the generations we remember to the generations who will someday remember us. And so the generations are connected by taste and smell.

The same is true of the Lord’s Table. Here we are connected to God’s people who have gone before by a shared meal with its tastes and smells, as well as a shared faith. As I come to the Table celebrated the same way with the same food, drink, format every time we break t bread and present the cup we can connect the decades together in ways that nothing else does. As I partake again of the table, I am not only eating for myself the bread of forgiveness and the drink of eternal life, I am mindful that I remain connected with those who have gone before. Here at the table Gary & Marge Douma, Buster McFadden, Carol Boffing, Ethel Smith, Cunningham Jones, Gert Kappinga Ralph and Jean Evans live still. We do this in remembrance of our Elder Brother, the Lord Christ, but the table — this shared meal — also reminds me … reminds us that we are not atomized individuals but we are part of a family … the family of God. In belonging to our Father who art in Heaven and as secured by our Elder Brother, the Lord Jesus Christ, we remain covenantally connected to the sainted dead and to one another. We are the family of God and as God’s family, we are covenantally connected to the generations now gone because we all, both dead and alive, remain covenantally connected to our Elder Brother who is our covenantal connection and who gives Himself in the faith-filled eating of the Bread and the drinking of the Wine at God’s mealtime gathering.

God ties us here and generationally via a shared meal that proclaims a common faith. Shared meals have always been part of the Gospel faith. On the night when God delivered His nation from Egypt, He formed the identity of his people via a ritual meal with very precise instructions about what to eat, the order of the eating and how to catechize the children in the context of the meal.

It is that Passover meal that formed the identity of God’s people that was transcended by the Lord’s Christ in the new and better covenant.  The Lord Christ takes the unleavened bread breaks and divides it among the Israel of God saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” Christ redirects the meaning of the bread in the Passover which communicated God’s deliverance from Egypt of His people to Himself as the only one in whom can be found deliverance from the wrath of God.

The focus of identity in this meal is Christ and not the OT Liberation shadow which proclaimed Christ.

Then Christ takes the cup and connected the contents to His blood.

27 Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. 28 This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29 I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”

And with this, the Passover is completely transcended and we see why it is called “a new and better” covenant. We say the Passover covenant is transcended and not replaced because we find in the Eucharistic meal all that was promised in the Passover meal come to full bloom. The Lord’s table is thus to the Passover meal what the full bloom of the Tulip is to the bud. The bloom doesn’t replace the bud. The bloom transcends the bud. It is all that the bud was promissory of.

But note something else here… and with this, we go on a brief rabbit trail. Note that Christ has connected the meal to the Passover.  And connects both the Passover meal as through the Lord’s Table to another meal… “I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” What we see here is the necessity of reading Scripture like listening to symphonies. Scripture, like Beethoven’s fifth (insert first four notes) is a movement that continues to return to familiar themes. Like symphonies Scripture develops themes, enlarging and expanding those themes as Scripture unfolds. Like symphonies, Scripture takes a theme and by way of dissonance introduces distinct developments that are later fit into the overall theme. By the means of a meal man falls. (Beethoven sound effect). By the means of a meal God gives a clear identity to His people and inaugurates a new religious civilization (sound effect). By the means of a meal, God transcends the previous meal, anchoring His people’s faith identity in Christ and so inaugurates again a new and improved religious civilization with organic links to the previous one (sound effect).  Follow the meals as a theme. Abraham’s three visitor’s share a meal. The covenant is confirmed on Sinai via a meal. Jesus’ first miracle of Cana was in the context of feasting.  The symphony rises and falls. New nuances are developed but the theme is constantly returned to.

And now we are looking forward to that promised meal that will be the glorious consummation meal where all God’s peoples of all time and all places will sit with our Lord Christ at the head of the table passing the best of the wine around (sound effect).  And every time we sit down at this meal, we sit down with the family of God — past, present, and future.

Beethoven said the first four notes of his fifth symphony was “the sound of Fate knocking at the door.” For us, as God’s people, the Lord’s table is the sound of God’s promise to deliver us beating the door down.

Because of all this, we can see that the Lord’s table is not merely the extension of the Passover but rather better said the Passover was a proleptic adumbration which anticipated the Lord’s table. It was merely the bud of the coming bloom. I can’t help but wonder when we arrive on the other side if we will think that the Lord’s table was a proleptic adumbration to the consummation meal.

Now … what do I mean that the Passover was a proleptic adumbration to the Lord’s table?

Well, proleptic is the assumption of a future act or development as if presently existing or accomplished.

And adumbration means, to outline or to sketch.

What I’m seeking to communicate with that phrase is while the Passover is not equal to the Lord’s Table it is an outline of the Lord’s Table that has in it the assumption of the future act of the Lord’s table as presently existing. Which is a fancy way of saying that the Passover is the bud. The bud is not the bloom but it has the accomplished bloom in it.

This is why the Passover meal is NOTHING to us as Christians. Why go back to the bud when you have the bloom? This idea that the reality is present in Christ is why the writer to the Hebrews could warn his readers not to go back to the shadows…. to the proleptic adumbrations. The reality of Christ was present. No going back. No partaking in Passover meals. All that Passover Promised is present in Christ and the Lord’s Table. As we eat in faith here is our deliverance.

And so we come to the table again. Covenantally gathered with the Saints who have gone before. In coming together to the Table we are reminded that we are the spiritual family of God. We come as belonging to particular families and so we come as a family of families all spiritually bonded together in Christ so that we can refer to each other as Brothers and Sisters. We come to this table understanding how it fits in a wee bit with God’s Scripture symphony of meals and looking forward to the final climax of that meal in the day to come. But until that day, and on this day, we do this in Remembrance of Him.”