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Torture as baptism? Palin, the NRA, and Christianity

I am wondering if there are any fellow brothers and sisters in Christ–who embrace the teachings of our Lord, who called us to bear witness to the truth, to go into all the world making disciples and baptizing them in the name of our Holy God, who Created all men and women in His glorious image, and told us to love our enemies and persecutors–who will continue to support Sarah Palin and what she says.

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Conference on the Adulterous Woman passage in John

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Fascinating. On Saturday (4/26/2014), at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, there was a Pericope Adulterae conference. I missed it but am glad there was some live blogging and summaries put together. The blogging of Jacob Cerone was helpful.

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I saw in the midst of the throne and of the four living  creatures, and in the midst of the elders, a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain.
– Apocalypse v.6 –

Why was John on Patmos?

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That John, the same Apostle who wrote the Gospel and three letters, was the same John exiled on Patmos and wrote Revelations was something I always knew and was always taught. At least as far back as I can remember learning or reading about such things. Over time, as I grew and read and studied further, what I knew changed. The first heresy I repented of was calling the little book Revelations; it’s either Revelation or the dark and ominous (and preferred) title, Apocalypse. I pray we can all repent of the silly s. Moving along, I also came to understand the three Johns didn’t necessarily have to be the same person. Doesn’t mean they are definitively not; just that tradition has historically decided who we believe authored those texts. Tradition can be just as wrong as it can be right.

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Yet agrarianism, trained as it is in the real work of farming, is certainly attached to the need to work. But this work is always tempered by the understanding that it cannot be finished or complete in itself–that the work is tied up with a whole gathering of beings and that the work is not that of a prison camp where it is forced, but is rather like a barn raising where labor is focused on accomplishing one task because it is part of a greater whole.

– Ragan Sutterfield, Cultivating Reality

He holds the keys of death

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Do not be afraid! I am the first and the last, and the one who lives! I was dead, but look, now I am alive – forever and ever – and I hold the keys of death and of Hades! (Rev. i.17b-18)

Before this, John spent considerable time lofting up the authority of Jesus with magnificent titles, contrasting him with and placing him as a superior authority above that of the Roman Emperor. And while the Emperors died and remained dead, despite their claims of deity, Jesus died and is alive, forever and ever.

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The blood of God’s people

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Now when the Lamb opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been violently killed because of the word of God and because of the testimony they had given. They cried out with a loud voice, “How long, Sovereign Master, holy and true, before you judge those who live on the earth and avenge our blood?” Each of them was given a long white robe and they were told to rest for a little longer, until the full number was reached of both their fellow servants and their brothers who were going to be killed just as they had been. (Rev. vi.9-11)

From the sixth century commentary by Oecumenius,

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Jesus Christ, the Faithful Martyr

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και απο Ιησου Χριστου, ο μαρτυς ο πιστος ο πρωτοτοκος των νεκρων και ο αρχων των βασιλεων της γης

. . . and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from among the dead, the ruler over the kings of the Earth. (Rev. i.5a)

Whether The Apocalypse (a.k.a. Revelation . . . without the ever popular but still incorrect s added at the end) was written before AD 70 or closer to the end of the first century, by the time John was exiled on Patmos and wrote what he was told to write, the word μαρτυς had “already been loaded with the new meaning of one who witnesses” to the truth of Jesus Christ and the Gospel, and pays for that with his blood.1 Now, that’s not to say in every case the word is found we need to interpret the use as if there was bloodshed; context always determines the meaning of a word.

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Suffering and rejection with Jesus

Disciples flee the scene, Duccio di Buoninsegna c. 1310

The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and experts in the law, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. (Lk. ix.22)

This ominous proclamation from Jesus, which was followed by Peter’s foolish rebuke-inducing-rebuke of the Master  (see Mk. viii), led into the a great call to discipleship:

Then he said to them all, “If anyone wants to become my follower, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me.” (v. 23)

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“I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more they can do.”
Luke xii.4

The politics of Jesus

Fortunately, Jesus revealed the alternative. He called it “The Kingdom of God.” It’s a political way of life based not on triumphant violence, but rather humble service. The politics of Jesus makes sure everyone has daily bread, it seeks to forgive debts and sins, it avoids the temptation to commit evil against our neighbors, and it calls us into a life of forgiveness.

I thought this Palm Sunday piece from Adam Ericksen was excellent. Read it at Sojourners.

Counting the Cost

In recent posts I have discussed the discipleship call from Jesus found in Luke ix, “If anyone wants to become my follower, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me.” Later on in Luke’s story, Jesus again, but this time with much more force and emphasis, made clear what it cost to follow him.

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Now when the Lamb opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been violently killed because of the word of God and because of the testimony they had given. They cried out with a loud voice, “How long, Sovereign Master, holy and true, before you judge those who live on the earth and avenge our blood?”

– Revelation vi.9-10

Baptism and a transfer of citizenship

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There is probably nothing Craig Hovey’s book, To Share in the Body: A Theology of Martyrdom for Today’s Church, does better than make as clear as crystal the connection between martyrdom and baptism:

 In baptism, a human individual is transferred from the world to the church. The world registers a loss in loyalty; the church registers an advance in loyalty.. . .

It is here that we explicitly encounter the connection between martyrdom and baptism. Perhaps the most extreme way that the church encounters extinction is at the hands of a hostile world through persecution and death.. . . The world attempts to regain its lost members, to secure its former loyalties, and to establish its earlier power.. . . Transferring citizenship from one kingdom to another is the action performed in baptism, but it also signals entrance into a temptation to trade the new citizenship back for the old,. . . The most desperate way the world has for attempting this is the martyrdom of Christians. (Hovey, To Share in the Body, 32-33)

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One cannot baptize oneself

Christian martyrdom and its role within the Church is best understood when we first understand the Church itself, and the community we become a part of.

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Luke ix.23: Were they just words?

(This is written in a note-taking sort of way. I’m hashing out some thoughts.)

Jesus’s crucifixion was more than the inspiration for elaborate devotional practices: it was the paradigm for what his closest followers could expect. The savior was himself a martyr who had suffered a violent death by execution. “Take up your cross and follow me” (Matt. 16:24, Luke 9:23)–were these just words? If Christians took seriously this command, they too might meet with tribulation and death. (Brad Gregory, Salvation at Stake, 110)

Were these just words? Did Jesus talk for the sake of talking? Or did he mean for his so-called followers to take him seriously?

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