Monday, August 5, 2013

Under the dripping pine trees

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. Matthew 5:10-12

I often forget that those who were persecuting Jesus and His followers were the religious leaders, those tenants who had been given responsibility for the Vineyard.  They were the ones who beat one, killed another and stoned another, and at the very end took the heir and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.  So often I focus on the other sorts of persecution such as those of fiddling Nero. According to Taticus, Nero inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians [or Chrestians] by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judaea, the first source of the evil, but, even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their centre and become popular. In accordance, an arrest was first made of all who pleaded guilty; then, upon their information, an immense multitude was convicted, not as much of the crime of firing the city as of hatred against mankind. Mockery of every sort was added to their deaths. Covered with the skins of beasts, they were torn by dogs and perished, or were nailed to crosses, or were doomed to the flames and burnt, to serve as a nightly illumination, when daylight had expired.

John D’Andrea came over yesterday afternoon, and had lots of enthusiastic chats with Jincheng, preparing all of us for a new school year better and beyond than that through which we stumbled last year.  And one thing that he underscored over and over was that in here in America the question word is not “What” (what exactly did the teacher say, and write it down, and memorize it) but the “Why” and “How” of it all.  

And that is true for this blessedness.  Yes, the What will happen.  We will be persecuted.  But let it the Why be for righteousness’ sake.  And false accusations, versus true accusations.  And let me be reminded of the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, meekness, temperance, faith, against such there is no law.  

A light drizzle has settled in around this morning.  And as I swam back and forth on distance day at the Hillenbrand pool, I considered more than the extra tarps and socks and windbreaker I will need to pack for my three-day camping trip with twelve high school seniors.  

As we spend long hours alone under the dripping pine trees considering What is True, let us dwell on not only the What, but the Why and the How.  Why? Because of His great, incomprehensible love for us while we were yet sinners.  How?  How then shall I live?  The Blessed and Happy Life.  

The Essential Questions.  Addressed by Jesus as He gathered His followers around  Him: Blessed are the poor in spirit, blessed are those who mourn, blessed are the meek, blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, blessed are the merciful, blessed are the pure in heart, blessed are the peacemakers, blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake.  

And the rest of the Sermon was The Student Will Be Able To measurable objectives.  And then He modeled what it looked like, with lots of guided practice, all the way to the cross, 

Now we have been left with the homework, to go into all the world and preach the gospel, through word and deed.  

And we will be blessed indeed.

Nicole reminded me last night, just before we trundled off to bed of another truth, Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when He returns.