Lazarus at our Gates

Vienna - Last judgment scene - Altlerchenfelder church
VIENNA – JULY 27: Jesus Christ and Last judgment scene by Leopold Kupelwieser from 1860 in nave of Altlerchenfelder church on July 27, 2013 Vienna.

I recently encountered an acquaintance that I knew from school decades ago.  As a child, he did not to fit in. There was an indescribable something off–too shy, too sensitive.  Whatever.  Of course back then and probably today that made you a target.

When I listened to his story, I heard about a dysfunctional family that left him scouring garbage cans for food.  When he was finally taken away into foster care, he was locked in the basement with a couple of other foster kids.  They were fed little and given less to drink.  If they cried, they were beaten. It made me weep to hear his story.

Where could he have learned how to fit in?  His shyness was his only means of protection.  His sensitivity was a sign of the rawness of his soul. Lazarus was sitting at our gates. We were rich with good families and adequate food but we ignored him or abused him.

It was beyond our capabilities to comprehend or to fix his life then, but kindness could have helped. For the most part, I was too self-absorbed to see.  But what about now? Is there a Lazarus at your gate?

In Jesus’ account of the Final Judgement, those rejected by God ask “when did we see you hungry and not feed you?”  I think that is the fundamental problem with a lot of us. We don’t see Lazarus or give aid when we do. To every Lazarus who sat at my gate, I am truly sorry that I did not see you or know how to help you. May God bind the wounds that I ignored.

Referenced scriptures: Luke 16:19-31, Matthew 25:31-46

#trcot #tcot #Lazarus

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Immanuel – God with Us

Traditional orthodox icon of Mother Mary
The Icon a Mother of God (Mary) and child (Jesus Christ)

The Fall not only separated us from God, but God from us.  The Creator and the created lived in harmony in Eden for a time.  Then our first parents chose to walk away from God. They rejected the light and in doing so found themselves in the land of darkness.

The Old Testament is a walk through God’s efforts to reconnect with us, but He was always outside of us.  So God used nature and physical realities to speak to His people of spiritual matters yet to come.  He wrote His law on tablets of stone. His Ark was made of wood and gold.  His people’s spiritual battles played out in flesh and blood.

First, God spoke to one man Abraham, then through Moses, then through His law.  The Tabernacle went from outside the camp to the middle of the camp.  Finally, God’s house, the Temple, was built in the center of Jerusalem.  God was among His people yet still separated by physical barriers because of our sin.  Eventually, the people ended up defiling the Temple with false gods, and God’s spirit left the Temple and the Ark of the Covenant was lost. Our ancestors had fallen again.

Isaiah spoke of the coming of Immanuel which means God with us.  Jesus was God in the flesh.  No longer speaking through plagues and laws written on stone.  Jesus was the Word of God in the flesh and He spoke directly to us.  Mary’s body was the Ark of the Covenant made in flesh.  God was with us, walking among us.  Teaching us directly. Healing us. Delivering us from the Evil One.  But still there was this separation.  Jesus could only sit beside two people at a time.

There was a greater level of intimacy that God desired.  At the Last Supper Jesus spoke of the coming of Holy Spirit.  How we could be one with Him and He with us.  The coming of the Holy Spirit was God within us! God’s word is written on our hearts! St. Paul says that our bodies are the Temple of the Holy Spirit. We fight not against flesh and blood  but against spiritual hosts of wickedness!  Now there is no more waiting in the hot son for hours for the hope of catching a glimpse of Jesus.  He dwells within us.  Yet there is still a separation.

Everything in the Bible progresses toward the Wedding Feast of the Lamb, where there will be no more separation.  The “God within us” stage will yield to “Unity with God”. This week we sing “O Come, O Come, Immanuel” but in our hearts and spirits is the Revelations cry, “Maranatha! Come Lord Jesus Come.”

#trcot #tcot #Immanuel #Maranatha

Related scripture: Isaiah 7:14, 1 Cor. 6:19, Eph. 6:12

No Room at the Inn

Signboard with text No Vacancy near hotel
Signboard with text No Vacancy near hotel

There were no Holiday Inns in Bethlehem. I’ve read that the word used is actually translated better as “guest chamber”.  Homes would have a guest chambers where one might stay. This was so much more than a hotel clerk saying everything’s full.

All of Joseph’s close family and extended family were in town for the Census.  Nobody would let them stay with them, or share a room with them. They were either selfish, or they viewed Mary’s pregnancy as something shameful. They were given a place in a stable with the animals.

There was no compassion for a woman in labor, only rejection. In a tribal society, family and your position in it was everything. Jesus came into this world rejected by man. He was born outside of the city in a place of shame.

Jesus would die outside of the city after being rejected by the Jewish people.  First they chose Barabbas over Jesus, then they chose Caesar over the King of the Jews and finally they chose death over life as they yelled “Crucify him!”  Three times they rejected Him. Then he was led outside the city to die a shameful death.

St. John says, “He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world knew him not.  He came to his own home, and his own people received him not.”

Our hearts have a guest chamber that is meant to be filled with God.  Sometimes it is so full of our possessions or our need for worldly approval, that there is no room for him. All those things are fleeting. At Christ’s birth, the Holy Family had none of those things.  Ponder this as you read Jesus’ message to those in Laodicea from the Book of Revelations.

I know your works; you are neither cold nor hot.  Would that you were cold or hot! So because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of my mouth.  For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing; not knowing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.  Therefore I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, that you may be rich, and white garments to clothe you and to keep the shame of your nakedness from being seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, that you may see.  Those whom I love, I reprove and chasten; so be zealous and repent.

Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any one hears my voice and opens the door. I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.

Is there room in the guest chamber of your heart for Christ?

Scriptures referenced: John 1:11-12, Revelations 3:15-20

#trcot #tcot #No Room at the Inn #Advent #Laodicea

Chaos Amongst the World Powers Sends Jesus Exactly Where He is Supposed to Be

Gaius Julius Caesar
Gaius Julius Caesar (13 July 100 BC – 15 March 44 BC) was a Roman general and statesman. Useful for leadership concepts.

The history of the world leaders at the time of Jesus’ birth puts soap operas to shame. Before Herod, two Maccabean brothers were at absolute war with each other as to who would rule Israel and one of them invited Rome into the fight. That is what brought Rome to Israel.  They were asked.

Herod from Idumea and son of an ally of one of the brothers married Mariamne the granddaughter of both of the warring brothers.  But then one of the warring brothers teamed up with the Parthians who kicked out his brother, the Romans and Herod.

Herod went to Egypt where he teamed up with Anthony and Cleopatra. Anthony then convinced Rome to make Herod king and take back the land.  Cleopatra had just wanted Herod to be her general and then she had it out for him. She instigated his neighbor to attack him, hoping he’d be killed.

Herod killed Mariamne’s grandfather because he had a better right to be king then he did.  Mariamne now hated Herod but Herod’s mother and sister  couldn’t convince him of it. So they told him that she had a nude painting made of herself and sent it to Anthony.  Herod flew into a jealous rage and killed her, but then went insane mourning her.  A free-for-all ensued amongst his children by his four wives as to who would be his successor.  Herod ended up killing some of them too.

After Julius Caesar was killed and there is a major power struggle to find his successor with Anthony and Cleopatra on one side and Caesar’s nephew on the other.  Herod’s old alliance with Anthony had soured. So, Herod went to the Julius’s nephew and told him that Anthony used to be a great guy but Cleopatra had ruined him.  He was throwing in with him.  The nephew became Caesar Augustus and he wanted to make sure Herod’s territory was actually loyal. So he called for a census where people had to pledge their loyalty to him.

All of this chaos, backstabbing, murder and intrigue led to a census that took the Holy Family from Nazareth to Bethlehem where the prophets foretold the Messiah would be born. The powers that be think they rule the world and they do what they will, but God uses all of their plotting and planning to bring about His own plan.

At His passion, the power struggles between the Jewish leaders who are jealous of Jesus and the Roman curator who only wanted to keep the peace brought about the death of Jesus exactly as was prophesied.

Remember this when the world seems to be going insane and out of control. God’s will shall be done.  Rome sent Jesus to His place of birth and to His place of death.

#Herod #Census #trcot #tcot

Most historical information is from The War of the Jews by Flavius Josephus

What are you preparing for?

Ancient Palestine Map Printed 1845

After Jesus was conceived Mary had nine months to prepare for His coming.  Yet rather than attend to her own needs, she went in haste to Elizabeth to tend to her needs.  Why? Because the angel Gabriel had told her about Elizabeth, so it seemed like the next step to take. Plus her heart was filled with love of others.

This was not an easy journey.  Mary lived in Galilee in the north, while Elizabeth lived in the hill country around Jerusalem.  Between them were mountainous roads through the hostile territory of Samaria. These Samaritans were inhospitable to Jesus and His disciples when they were headed to Jerusalem. So much so that we have the first recorded attack of road rage where John wanted to call down fire from heaven on them. Yet Mary knowing these conditions goes in haste to Elizabeth.

We have no idea what the Holy Family’s plans for Jesus’ birth were, but we can be fairly sure they did not include a stable in Bethlehem or becoming refugees in Egypt.  We know that Mary prayed and tried to do what God was calling on her to do that day. When the time came the Holy Family was prepared.

Just before the Ascension, the apostles and disciples were told to stay in the city until they were clothed with power from on high.  So they prayed with Mary in the upper room for nine days.  They obeyed the last thing they were told and prayed.

Today, everyone can sense that the world is getting ready to explode. Indeed, the opening skirmishes are taking place around the world.  Some people are stocking up on gold, ammo or food but the only preparation that will truly see you through is to prepare as Mary and the Apostles did with prayer and obedience.  Prepare but place your faith in God, not in your own preparations.  St. Peter instructs us:

Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of persons ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be kindled and dissolved, and the elements will melt with fire! But according to his promise we wait for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.

There was a time when Peter lived in fear but after his nine days of prayer and preparation. He was clothed with power from on high just as Jesus said.  Prepare for Christmas, and prepare for these troubling days by “living lives of holiness and godliness”.  Pray that you will be clothed with power from on high, and be led like the Holy Family was. Your plans may come to naught, but God’s plans are certain.

Referenced Scripture: Luke 1, Luke 9: 51-56, 2 Peter 3:11-13

#End times preparation #trcot #tcot #Advent preparation