Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Dominionism and the Kingdom of God

Dominionism and the Kingdom of God
Matthew 25:

Woody Allen quote, "I don't want to achieve immortality through my work. I want to achieve it through not dying." (Allen quote was found in Sam Wells, do not be afraid)

In the heat of the summer afternoon, sheep will gather together, heads in the center of the group, and provide shade for each other.

Goats will stay by themselves, many times climbing onto a rock outcropping, lying down, and slowly dying from the heat.

Metaphors in the parable--sheep and goats--neither of which refer to Christians, but to those outside of the Christian community. Some have a genuine concern for the well-being of others. Some, in the act of self-preservation, die a heat related death.

While Woody Allen center attention on immortality apart from works, this parable takes us back to works--in particular, the capacity of non-Christians to do what is good and the blessings they receive from God.

Point One. Unpacking the Parable
What leads us to make the claim that this parable is about non-Christians doing what is good?

1. The early Church, like late Judaism, had the expectation of the end of the world.
2. For Christians, that day was the time when Jesus would be revealed in majesty as the Christ/Messiah. Believers would be justified in their faith.
3. That day had been delayed.
4. Remember that expectation is an expression of faith, not faith itself.
5. Faith is maintained as the day is delayed.
6. Have to free faith from the expectation wrapped around it.
7. We are freeing faith from the expectation that those who were not believers would be blessed by God for performing acts of compassion. (Points 1-7 from Exposition of the Parables )
8. How do I make that claim?
a. The claim that people who do good deeds receive life after death was commonly held, even among the Ancient Egyptians.
b. Faith plays no role in this parable. Not mentioned.
c. Elsewhere in Matthew, other grounds for judgment given for Jews--as they reject Jesus, and for Christians--as they are faithful to Christ.
d. The word nations, used in this parable, used to refer to non-Jewish and thus non-Christian individuals.
e. Romans 2, the last verses, speak of 2 judgments. First the Jews, then the Gentiles.
f. Other Jewish texts refer to "righteous Gentiles", that despite idolatry, some pagans were genuinely good people.
9. Least of these, refers to Christian missionaries, who have made sacrifices for the sake of their mission. Travel light, as in 10:8-9, totally dependent upon those among whom they proclaim the gospel.
10. Passage encourages vulnerable missionaries that pagans will be judged by God for how they treat the followers of Christ. See 10: 40-42. (Points 8-9 made by Douglas Hare in the Interpretation Commentary on Matthew)
11. Within that judgment, some will be blessed by God for performing acts of compassion for those who are vulnerable.

Point Two. The outcomes of commonly held Christian values.
1. Customary Christian assumption that this text refers to Christians, and what they unwittingly do or do not do. Creates 4 problems of faith, spiritual dilemmas.
2. First, I am filled with fear that I have overlooked someone, or something. What if, perhaps, I fail in this endeavor and burn in hell for it.
3. Second, Leads us to overlook where the wilderness starts. Use Garden of Eden, angel guarding the entrance. Use Revelation, gates of the New Jerusalem. There is just one step between paradise and wilderness.
4. Barbara Brown Taylor illustration. Are there no predators? No. Then your participants aren't ready to live in the wilderness.
5. Where does that wilderness start. Just outside our doors. Does our light shine into the darkness that just outside our doors?
6. Third, outside, there are predators, waiting to devour those who are weak. Christians, rooted in faith in a man who is executed, for some reason, remain shocked at the darkness that is in the world. We are not ready for the predators. Psalm 23, Yea, though I walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, I will fear no evil. (Points 4-6 are from Barbara Brown Taylor, Leaving Church )
7. Finally, Fourth, we overlook the possibility that others, not followers of Jesus, have the capacity to perform acts of compassion for those who are vulnerable.

Point Three.
1. Anonymous Christians. Jesus gathers the children to him, whoever receives the least of these, receives me. Any person, believer or not, who performs acts of compassion to those who are vulnerable, are doing God's will. (From Douglas Hare, Interpretation Commentary on Matthew )
2. Looking for good works from non-Christians, and ask how we as Christians can bless them.
a. The one who does not make issues simplistic. As we reflect upon the anti-corporation movement, those capable of doing good see the complexity of the issues. Related to shareholder, how does the anonymity of being a stakeholder and the large structure of a corporation allow stakeholders hide from a responsibility to the well-being of others? Related to directors, in addition to the ability to hide immoral actions in the corporate structure, what is the course of action in business schools related to teaching business ethics. Related to the public, protest, by nature is to be against something. To be against something does not necessarily lead to the moral or right choice, but may lead to another immoral action. Related to the legislators, do we blame only the corporations for wielding power and influence over elected officials, or do we hold elected officials responsible for a failure of nerve? And, we as votes, are called to identify our need for the quick fix and the use of the threat of voting office holders out of office if the solution is not immediate? (These considerations are from the Hedgehog Review on the morality of Corporations)

b. Government elected officials. Let us use history as our guide. In 1494, with the help of France, the people of Florence, Italy overthrew the Medici family and established a republic. The new leader was Savonarola, a Dominican Friar. He built the government on religious reforms that led to what was called the Bonfire of Vanities, when all writing and artwork not reflective of his values was destroyed. In that case, the Dominicans wanted a free government to promote religious reform. Others in Florence accepted religious reform for the purpose of achieving a free government. In the end, Savonarola was ousted and others leaders put in place. (from Mary Ann Glendon, The Forum and the Tower)

c. Acts of courage. Plato, in his Laws, defines courage as withstanding pain and refusing certain pleasures, such as prosperity. Locker room showers, child abused, step in or call the police. Acts of courage have a graduate assistant or janitor intervene in the midst of the attach.

Conclusion--Mission as Lay Preachers
1. Called to bless those, outside of the Christian faith, who perform acts of compassion for those who are vulnerable.
2. First, we can do that by providing opportunities for people to do what is good.
3. Second, we can bless the good that others do, without the Christian arrogance that contends that you can't do good without being a Christian first.
4. Third, we see that those who are doing good are seekers on a spiritual journey and who have hearts that may be open to Christian witness. This witness, however, is not one of condemnation, but of listening, striving to understand, asking questions, and speaking from a Christian framework. Finally, about sharing God's present day activity in your life.

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