war

Baptism, Blood, and Battle

Baptism, Blood, and Battle

Many people struggle with the concept of biblical continuity. They impose unnecessary breaks in the Bible. They put commas when God has put a period. The same takes place in matters of sacramental importance. The Bible becomes a place full of rituals and rites. These rituals and rites have a purpose in the Scriptures. They shape the humanity of the Israel of God. Israel becomes a people because they participate in these important initiatory experiences. We are all shaped by experiences. These experiences in the context of the Church make us who we are. They identify us with a certain community. In ancient Israel, the Hebrews were identified by their bloody signs. These signs connected us with a bloody religion; the religion of our forefathers.

These signs were to be identity-markers. As God’s people transitioned in leadership these signs remained. As God’s people went through periods of obedience and disobedience, these rituals remained. As God’s people were organically joined with the Gentiles, becoming one flesh–like husband and wife–these rituals remained. Now, it is not that the rituals remained unaffected in every detail. In fact, they changed drastically. The once bloody identity markers were replaced with cleansing markers. There is lots of cleansing taking place in the New Covenant. This happens because Jesus’ humanity changes the world.  Jesus’ humanity humanifies the world. The presence of Messiah in word and deed pushes back the dirt and corruption and darkness and incompleteness of the Old Covenant rituals. There is a temporary nature to particular rituals, but the rituals themselves continue to a thousand generations.

The issue of continuity is a fundamental aspect to this ritual-laden world. The rituals continue, changed by times and places, but the object of these rituals never decrease, they only increase. In other words, every male boy at eight days old was to be circumcised (Gen. 17). There is no reference of explicit female circumcision, though there are indications that females should be spiritually set apart as the boys. But in the New Creation, entire households are brought forth for this cleansing ritual called baptism. Every Gentile and Jews, male and female are made explicit recipients and are called to partake of this new sign.

The New Covenant is a covenant of abundant life, and abundant life means blessings to the nations. Baptism saves to the uttermost because Christ saves to the uttermost. You cannot separate the abundant life Christ gives with the abundant life of the means Christ provides for His own.

The individualized language of modern sacramental and evangelical theology is a departure from the type of language the Bible has trained us to use when referring to rituals. Rituals have always been communal activities. The glory of the many in the Old Creation is not substituted by the radical commitment of the one in the New Covenant. Jesus is always and perpetually connected to a body in His ascension work. To divorce Christ from the body is an act of covenantal treason. Continuity is key to understanding this process. It is not as some assume that the sacrament of baptism needs to depart from the Old Creation. The sacrament of baptism is so inextricably tied to the bloody rites of the Old Creation that it cannot be divorced from it in any way, shape, or form. Blood makes room for water. Bloody-martyr-servants make room for cleansed-martyred servants. Still, One Lord, one faith, one baptism.

Baptism is a welcome party for martyrs. In baptism, the noble army of God is equipped to serve and battle. They do not begin anew, but they continue the ancient battle begun in Genesis. They add their powerful voices and armors to the battle. They are consecrated in water, their swords are sharpened, and their helmets are strengthened. In the heat of the battle while the enemies find no place to call home, Yahweh prepares a table in the presence of His enemies.

Baptism is preparation for a life-long war. Christ leads the baptized saints. He washed them with great care and equipped them to do the work. This community of faith directs their love to the One who adopted them in love. Baptism is loyalty to Messiah. Baptism cleanses, restores, and adorns those who undergo the great cleansing. To deny a continuity of rituals is to deny the war on the serpent. All God’s children need to be ritualized, so they can war.

Why I am proud to be an American

In the best sense of the term, this has been a very patriotic weekend for me. It began on Thursday evening at the Banquet for Life hosted by Safe Harbor. Safe Harbor is a ministry the saints of Providence have invested in for quite a few years. It is more than just another pro-life ministry, it is a labor that saw 162 women this past year choose life rather than live with the blood of the innocent in their hands for the rest of their lives. They provide counseling, medical help, and the environment to best guide confused young women out of their present chaos.

At their annual fundraising banquet they invited Senator Rick Santorum. Santorum was still living off the energy of last year’s election. The Senator from Pennsylvania shocked the nation by losing to Mitt Romney by only eight votes in Iowa and going on to win several other primaries. Though Santorum was no match for the prosperous GOP establishment candidate, the Senator was still able to leave a lasting impression in the GOP Primary.

Santorum observed in his speech that though he had opined continuously on the state of the economy and on other pertinent matters, the media chose not to pursue the Senator’s opinion on these issues, but rather focus on some of his more “extreme” ideas. Ideas like opposition to abortion, which according to the general American public are far from extreme. Yet, we are at such a stage in the civil discourse that when anyone speaks passionately about any moral issue, he is already termed a radical. To hell with logic!

The Santorum event renewed my commitment to the life issue and my support for organizations like Safe Harbor in Pensacola, Fl. May they prosper!

Friday morning then was a continuation to this patriotic weekend. After 17 years in these United States, I have finally made official what many thought had been official for a long time. The reality is, I waited this long because I understood what this meant. In one sense, it meant that my allegiance to my birth country of Brazil would move to the passenger’s seat. Practically it has been that way, but a liturgy was needed to confirm this commitment. Though I love my country’s beauty and culture, I am and will be an American at heart. My commitment to the well-being of this nation is a deep part of who I am. Though my skepticism about our government’s actions will always prevail, I am deep inside an American by choice. I didn’t have to be, but I chose to be.

The naturalization ceremony flowed with all its pomp and persistent commentary by the Judge. Her American pride was gallantly streaming. But in some ways the ceremony had to be slow for I had been waiting for a long time for this moment to come to pass, and the slow and tedious ceremony was just an symbol of how long this entire process took; thousands of dollars, the patience of a loving wife, and the trips…so many trips. So here I am: an American at last.

My religious and political propensity demands that I refrain from exalting too much this nation. But it is hard to remain silent about a nation that has done so much for me. It has nourished me in all the human luxuries imaginable. It has provided for me confirmation of my calling. It has romanced me into its beauty and culture, and then asked me to take part in it. It accepted me even when I declared from the mountain tops that this country needs repentance of the II Chronicles kind.

So this has been a patriotic past weekend. I have tasted officially of the American air with a flag pin to prove it. I indulged in corn dogs and French fries (yes, freedom fries), and no, I still do not have an appetite for country music. I entered into the fine company of what the Judge so repetitively described as the “melting pot.” I enter as one, but hope to impact many.

I am proud to be an American, but in a different way than the obnoxious tune. I am proud to be an American because I know that my loyalty is to the King of America, Jesus Christ. And though this blessed nation has deserted our Lord and Maker, I decided to use my mouth and vote to opine passionately and studiously about why this nation needs to pursue this Lord. She is lost without His care. I don’t want to only glory in her past; I want to glory in the future she will have if she turns, and repents, and bows down before the only One who can make her great.

Pastoral Meditation on God’s Justice for the Season of Lent

We treasure by our very nature as new creation beings (II Cor. 5) the justice of God upon injustice. We are imprecational beings. The Psalms are given for and to us for a particular reason. They are our prayers. They belong to righteous sons and daughters of the King. They are our means to communicate our hunger for justice in this world.

The blessedness of these prayers is that they begin to shape us in a new way. Mixed with the blessings of the covenant are the many curses the covenant brings to those who despise Yahweh. Of course, God’s judgments are pure and perfect and they are acted upon in His time and way. Since this is the case, they usually befuddle our expectations. And naturally, this can be frustrating. While we live in this justice-paradox, we also live knowing that God does not forget His justice. Though time passes painfully for us, God is not emotionally moved by His passion to see His Name and children vindicated.

So as we seek the kingdom of God above all else, let us also seek His justice in that kingdom. And while we do, let us continue to pray faithfully and continue to wait patiently for the God of war to act. His kingdom will prevail and His justice will not fail.

On the Role of Worship

Toby Sumpter elaborates on the purpose of worship:

You see, this is actually the first work of the Kingdom here. This is where we lay our ambush; this is where we perform the great air war. This is where we drop our nukes on sin, death, and the devil. Before you fight the battle against anger tonight, before you fight the battle against lust tomorrow, before you fight the battle against laziness on Wednesday, before you fight the battle against lying on Friday, you begin here by asking God to wield His sword on your heart and mind through His Word. You begin here by singing your war songs, believing that God marches before you slaying your enemies, making your path secure. You begin here casting your cares upon the Lord asking Him to move mountains, asking Him to heal the sick, asking Him to remove tyrants, asking Him to raise up the humble and meek. You begin here by feasting at the Lord’s Table, eating and drinking the victory of the Lamb who was slain.

Abraham was promised Canaan, and the He went through the land building altars and calling on the Name of the Lord, and hundreds of years later, Joshua led choirs and trumpets to circle Jericho until the walls came tumbling down. We don’t fight with fists or swords or bombs. We fight by the power of the Spirit. We fight with the Word of God, and we wield the wrecking ball of the Spirit until the walls of unbelief and tyranny and slavery fall down. We fight now. We wage war now.