Kinsman-Redeemer

18 Jun

Kathryn Hauser’s Reflection for 2 Easter 15 April 2012

Kinsman-Redeemer

This week I watched storm clouds descend on the coastline and could almost “hear” the Star Wars storm trooper music coming on the clouds.  As amusing as this force was for my mind to put music to what my heart was feeling, I looked at my own soul and wondered what God was trying to show me.  As light and dark were literally battling it out in the skies above me, my eye sought out the blue peeking through the clouds and hope kept rising in my heart.  But where was my hope supposed to go to from there?  Once the next dark cloud covered the blue, then gloom threatened to take my hope away.  In the course of a day I observed a spiritual exhaustion descend upon me as hope rose and fell with the clouds on the skyline.  It was a roller coaster ride not for the faint-hearted or sissies.  I cried out with Thomas, “My Lord and my God!” (Jn 20:28) 

The reason for the pathos was that I had just tried again to reconcile with my “kinsman-redeemer” or “guardian-redeemer” (cf Book of Ruth and Luke 21:28 [!]) but my homies remained stone silent.  I will explain.  On 25 January 2011 God had told me to leave my home church and sent me out to all the archetypal Seven Churches.  Now after this last 1½ year stretch (cf Rev 12:14) God had sent me back to my home church on Easter Sunday.  I was warmly and sincerely received with hugs and joy.  My heart rejoiced and I was very moved to below the foundations of my soul as I received communion at the altar.  Two days later I made another attempt at reconciling the split with my home church and more silence has since ensued.  What’s a girl to do?  I know how frightening it can be to be used by God to fulfill prophecy!  I understand the intense emotion.  I tried to understand more at a deeper level.  Why, you may ask, would I care so deeply about reconciling with the Church?  Well, because Christ is coming back soon, and the fragmented Church must be of one body, one mind, one heart, one soul, and one voice (ref Acts 4:32) before He comes back.  And my caring is also not just because Christ is coming back soon.  I care because I love the Church.  My love is not reasonable!  However, my church–along with the collective Seven Churches–has been like one schizophrenic patient with many ego-voices.  Taking this analogy forward, the treating physician can love her patient to pieces and passionately desire for her wellness, but until the patient is ready to heal, to trust the physician, and receive the good, there will be few breakthroughs.  In the healing process there can also be redemption.  The same is true in the medical field as in the spiritual realm.  In order to experience the healing of redemption, the patient-as-Church must believe in God, believe in herself, and believe in goodness. 

I sought God’s guidance and answers as I wrestled with all this.  I meditated on the Book of Ruth in conjunction with today’s lectionary lessons and overlaid the two on top of each other.  I returned to the aforementioned “kinsman-redeemer” concept.  The kinsman-redeemer from the Old Testament was a person in the family line who could buy back another family member’s property if he fell onto hard times and had to go into slavery to survive.  Another family member could basically buy him out of hock.  I could see that, yes, Christ is absolutely our Kinsman-Redeemer.  He fit all of the qualifications Himself:[1]

    • He must be a Kinsman (blood relative member of the family).
    • He must be Free himself.
    • He must be Able to pay the Price.
    • He must be Willing to pay the price.

I also know God has shown us by example what He wants and He did not even spare His own Son in order to show us.  Since Christ redeemed us and was one of us by His blood, birth, and Truth and we are in Christ as He lives in us, then the Church, too, is in turn redeeming the world by her blood, birth, and Truth over the centuries.  In a metaphoric sense the Church has been a type of “kinsman.”  She has been made free herself.  She has been able to pay the price.  But she has not been willing to pay the price.  Going round and round as I danced with Hope and Potential, I became completely exhausted.  Why was she not willing?  My head knew that Truth trumps CYA, but my heart?  Out of self-respect I could not allow myself to be yanked around by blind hope again.  I’d been on that wild hope ride too many times and knew my hope had to be anchored in Truth and Faith and not in Potential.  Just because I had confidence in the Church did not mean I could impart confidence to them.  Neither can confidence be abdicated to another and remain healthy within oneself.  Confidence can be encouraged and then must grow from within as one daily trusts in God, and thanks Him for answered prayers. 

There was nothing I could do to convince anybody that this relationship was worth my life and had cost me everything.  Words on belief pounded my soul like relentless crashing surf:

Jesus said, “Do not doubt but believe.” (Jn 20:27)

Jesus said, “Have you believed because you have seen Me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” (Jn 20:29)

“But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in His name. (Jn 20:31)

What does it mean to “have Life in His name” by believing?  I just wanted to pound on God’s chest!  I felt like an orphan, not abandoned by God but by the Church.  God had sent me on this Mission Impossible, I had agreed to this assignment, and the internal tapes had already self-destructed long ago.  Positive affirmation tapes in my mind reciting ‘Oldies But Goodies’ could not even touch the depths of where Life had to germinate in order for me to believe.  As one pastor joked, “Christ is not Jesus’ last name!”  It’s not like I have doubt that the Holy Spirit won’t breathe softness into these hard spots in my life and into all of our lives!  It’s that so many of us are truly stuck between a ‘rock and a hard place.’  For me personally in this No Man’s Land of silence I have no real church family to go to, no way to further share my Reflections with a wider audience because I am computer- and technologically challenged and the Churches unilaterally won’t help, and I have no resources.  There is supposed to be strength in numbers (which there really is,) but when the silence of doing nothing is stronger than even trying, then it only gives more power to the ‘rock and a hard place.’  I think the root cause of what happened in my case is that there was a powerful spirit of Doubt within the Church; maybe not so much doubt in God as doubt in herself.  That doubt came up against Truth and spread like a virus crushing more and more people as it oozed into all the archetypal Seven Churches who gathered at the “quarry” of a ‘Rock and a Hard Place.’ 

Again I looked to the Book of Ruth for some guidance.  The main heroines in this story had to work with the rubble of their lives; rubble that was created not by their own choosing, but caused by a husband who dragged his family away to a foreign land along with himself on multiple levels.  In the story the husband and sons die and two of the widows returned alone from Moab to Bethlehem, where Naomi still had relatives.  Well, it was a returning for Naomi, but it was new for Ruth.  Several years earlier it had been Naomi who was new as a stranger in a strange land, albeit with husband and sons who had been derailed by a famine. (Ru 1:1)  So now Naomi was returning to her homies feeling like a stranger at an airport and Ruth was entering as a widowed foreigner on completely alien turf.  Imagine that picture for a moment: Having no orientation of any kind for identity and safety!  Ruth had nothing, and even took Naomi’s God as her own. (Ru 1:16)  Ruth was Naomi’s daughter-in-law and Naomi was depressed (Ru 1:20) (and who wouldn’t be depressed after losing one’s whole family and lifestyle?)  The ladies arrived at Bethlehem just in time for the barley harvest.  Immigrant labor laws of the time allowed for the disenfranchised to glean the crops after the paid laborers were done.  Ruth probably felt like her nose was being ground off as she ‘kept her nose to the grind-stone’ in trying to glean something for her and Naomi to subsist upon, but Ruth had such integrity that she caught Boaz’s attention.  [Play hero entrance music.]  Boaz was a wealthy family member with many crops [plantations?] and the hero of this love story.  He didn’t actually “fall” in love with Ruth, but walked right into it.  He woke up with Ruth literally at his feet (like us at Christ’s feet). (Ru 3:4)  Boaz wanted to marry Ruth but couldn’t directly take Ruth to be his lawfully wedded wife because there was another closer family member in Naomi’s and his clan whom he had to go to first.  There was this issue of the girls having nothing and they were slaves to their circumstances and widowhood even though in the Jewish culture one’s family land stayed with the family forever.  [Is that like heirloom season tickets to the Met?  They always stay in the family?]  In that culture land was passed down through the men and names were passed on through the women.  [I think I got that right.]  If one fell on hard times, one could sell oneself into slavery to pay off the debt, but the land stayed with the clan on the man’s side.  To buy a family member out of hock meant that the one buying back the right of ownership then also took in the widows as their own.  Since Naomi’s husband had a share of the clan’s land but he died, the property had to be redeemed and the women with it.  Boaz negotiated with the clan for the Right of Redemption.  The next closest relative to Naomi had to be given the opportunity to decline the right of redemption, which the fellow did (Ruth 4:6) and he agreed to give Naomi’s husband’s property and Ruth over to Boaz.

The Book of Ruth is such a pretty story about redemption!  Redemption takes the old and turns it into something new.  In explaining the concept of redemption, a few years ago a priest directed our attention to the Redemption Value on bottles and cans.  We can redeem what is valuable by turning in the old and something new is created out of it.  We can choose to cash in or not.  Boaz chose to cash in with dividends.  As I meditated on this love story, I noticed that Boaz worked quickly to settle the matter. (Ruth 3:18)  In my case my homies said and did nothing.  I guess they were waiting for God to do something.  This is a covenantal relationship.  I understand that doing nothing is actually doing something, but what was really going on below their silence?  Were they fighting their own doubts?  Doubts can be useful and necessary tools to show us the polarities exhibited while we sit down and stare at them one by one, as if taking parts of lunch out of a lunch bag and thoughtfully munching on them one by one.  Spoken doubts can help us clarify our priorities.  But we have to look at them in order for them to be helpful.  As another pastor recently said, “We don’t learn from our experiences.  We learn from reflecting on our experiences.”  Upon reflection we can prioritize.  Priorities help us to decide what we truly want. 

What do we really want?  The world just wants some peace while we stare at more destruction.  The Church-as-Institution wants grace as she stares at her own tomb of silence.  The other part of the Church-as-Bride wants “home” as she waits for the rapture.  The King is to ride in on His white horse.  Faithful and True is the rider’s name. (Rev 19:11)  Did He just whiz by and we didn’t know because we were too busy poking and prodding each other and the wounds on His hands and side (ref Jn 20:27) while He stopped to visit our churches?  Did He ride on through the “Upper Rooms” of our Reason as we so carefully guarded the tripod of Scripture, Reason, and Tradition, but even then the doubts crept in underneath the pyramid doorframe after He rode on to other disciples? (ref Jn 20:30)  But dear reader, please notice that the Book of Revelation does not end with the rapture.  It ends with “testify:”

Rev 22:20He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.”
      Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

 21The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen.

“These things” refers to the written words of prophecy in the Book.  They are not to be altered. (Rev 22:18-19)  If they had been altered, how would anyone know they were True when the prophecies were fulfilled?  In today’s lectionary gospel lesson, John talks about things that were not written (Jn 20:30) and things that were written (v 31).  They were written so that we could believe.  Since testifying strengthens our beliefs, then it is also true that silence and doing nothing also strengthens our beliefs.  Belief and redemption do go hand-in-hand.  Redemption is not just some “pie in the sky, coming in the clouds” thing to take us out of a bad dream.  Ruth and Naomi had every reason to want to be taken out of their bad dream of a life.  But…they arrived in Bethlehem at the time of the barley harvest (aka Passover).  (Ru 1:22)  We, too, just celebrated the Passing Over of the Spirit as the Church did “nothing” and Christ’s resurrection was glorified at Easter.  Fifty days after the barley harvest is the wheat harvest (aka Pentecost.)  What will the Spirit find this time?  Will the Church be more confident to share or conflagrant in her staunch silence by doubting His mercy?  At a Passover Seder four wine cups are raised over the course of the dinner.  The first is the Cup of Sanctification signifying God’s people as set apart and holy for Him.  The second is the Cup of Deliverance signifying how God has delivered us from bondage.  Jumping to the last of the four cups is the Elijah Cup symbolizing God’s taking of us to Himself.  I was told that at the Last Supper Jesus would have lifted the third cup, the Cup of Redemption, and offered it to the disciples. 

Lk 22:17 After Jesus took the cup, he gave thanks. He said, “Take this cup and share it among yourselves. 18 I tell you, I will not drink wine with you again until God’s kingdom comes.”

The one who is redeemed must believe it to share it.  Elijah was full of the Spirit as well as consumed by the Spirit (2 Kings 2:11).  The Churches were repeatedly told to “hear what the Spirit says to the Churches.”  Are we, as a Church, now ready to lift the cup to testify to God’s greatness, faithfulness, Truth, and love as in a wedding toast?

Prayer: O Divine Madman, please give us the courage to stop and look at our own doubts and face them one at a time with honesty and respect.  May we see that doubts can be tools showing us the polarities in our lives, making choices clearer.  May those polarities give us clarity so that we can declare with Thomas, “My Lord and my God!”  Where we feel trapped ‘between a rock and a hard place,’ please show us Your softness, so that we can testify to Your glory.  It does not take great faith to testify.  We just have to apply the skills You’ve already given us.  In Your mercy, help us to do this.  May we know that as we do this, our confidence in You will grow.  As our confidence grows in You, may our doubts shrink and the love in our hearts shine brighter as we stay focused on You.  Amen.

 

2 Easter                     15 April 2012                                                Gospel: John 20:19-31

Acts 4:32-35
4:32 Now the whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common.

4:33 With great power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all.

4:34 There was not a needy person among them, for as many as owned lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold.

4:35 They laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need.

Psalm 133
133:1 How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity!

133:2 It is like the precious oil on the head, running down upon the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down over the collar of his robes.

133:3 It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion. For there the LORD ordained his blessing, life forevermore.

1 John 1:1-2:2
1:1 We declare to you what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life–

1:2 this life was revealed, and we have seen it and testify to it, and declare to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us–

1:3 we declare to you what we have seen and heard so that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.

1:4 We are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.

1:5 This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him there is no darkness at all.

1:6 If we say that we have fellowship with him while we are walking in darkness, we lie and do not do what is true;

1:7 but if we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.

1:8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.

1:9 If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

1:10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

2:1 My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous;

2:2 and he is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.

John 20:19-31
20:19 When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.”

20:20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.

20:21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”

20:22 When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.

20:23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

20:24 But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came.

20:25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”

20:26 A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.”

20:27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.”

20:28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!”

20:29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”

20:30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book.

20:31 But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.

 

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