The unfairness of Christ [Luke 10]

I don’t watch the news on TV. I tend to look at the paper electronically — local in the morning and the US/UK in the evening — and skim the headlines. The two magazines I buy are weekly. For I worry enough.

Now worry is not a sin, nor is wanting to serve. Martha is distracted by her wish to serve, to feed Jesus. We know that Mary and Martha had a brother called Lazarus, and that Jesus loved all three.

What Martha wants, however, is fairness. She’s worried and busy serving, and Mary darn well better be just as fussed about this. But Mary is at the feet of Christ.


Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”

(Luke 10:38-42 ESV)

Martha thinks she wants fairness. She is busy, Calvin speculates that she has made a great feast, and needs a second set of hands, when it was not needed — noting that there was a duty of hospitality, but also that it had been taken to excess. But to remove Mary from her occupation and employment would be unjust.

There is no comparison here, as unskillful and mistaken interpreters dream. Christ only declares, that Mary is engaged in a holy and profitable employment, in which she ought not to be disturbed. “You would have a good right,” he says, “to blame your sister, if she indulged in ease, or gave herself up to trifling occupations, or aimed at something unsuitable to her station, and left to you the whole charge of the household affairs. But now, when she is properly and usefully employed in hearing, it would be an act of injustice to withdraw her from it; for an opportunity so favorable is not always in her power.” There are some, indeed, who give a different interpretation to the latter clause, which shall not be taken away from her, as if Christ intended to say, that Mary hath chosen the good part, because the fruit of heavenly doctrine can never perish. For my own part, I have no objection to that opinion, but have followed the view which appeared to me to be more in accordance with Christ’s design

Martha was loved by Christ. Martha cared for Christ: like many, she wanted to give him her best. And the household needed work: preparing the food and keeping things clean was (and is, in agricultural areas) a full-time job — for it is the grinding of the grain before the baking of the bread: it is the need for continual cleanliness so that the filth from the farm does not infect the field workers. I don’t think Mary or Martha left the bolts Kipling mentioned untightened.

But there are higher things. There are greater priorities. And the trouble for those of us who worry, who have a fair amount of Martha in us, is that we can be so busy dealing with what the think needs doing now and so resentful of the unfairness of it all that we forget that there are more important things.

Such as the people we are feeding, such as the God we should thank for saving us. We forget to kneel at Christ’s feet, and substitute busy-ness for worship.

This is another reason to meet as a congregation: and to worship. It is a reason to keep times off and days off. It is a reason to not get too elaborate in your ceremonies and in your daily life. There are things we need to do today and every day to survive: we have tasks to complete, both in the household and outside it. But start the day in the word; start the day in prayer. Before the troubles of the day drive you to exhaustion.

And resent not those who sit at the feet of Christ in worship. Join them instead.

The mob is generally against us.

When I discuss the mob, I am talking about those who are in the margins: who do not have that much work such people exist.
There are always those between jobs, and in this time, when the progressives have allowed the unions to become guilds and limit their members, the rate of youth unemployment has increased markedly. The mob has always been able to be stirred up: for political gain, to foment the revolution, or as in this text, for profit. Calvin notes we should thus look at how we earn our dollars, for it matters.

Therefore, being taught by such examples, let us learn to make choice of such a kind of life as is agreeable to the doctrine of Christ; lest desire of gain a provoke us to enter a wicked and ungodly combat. And as for those who, through ignorance or error, are fallen unto any ungodly occupation, or are entangled in any other impure and wicked kind of life, let them, notwithstanding, beware of such sacrilegious rashness. And as touching godly teachers, let them learn by this example, that they shall never want adversaries, until the whole world, through denial of itself, offer peace, which we know will never come to pass. Because Paul’s doctrine taketh away Demetrius and the rest of the silversmiths’ gains, they leap out furiously to put out [destroy] the same, will not they do the same whom the gospel shall contrary? But there is no man who hath not occasion to fight. For all the affections of the flesh are enemies to God. So that it must needs be, that how many lusts of the flesh there be [reign] in the world, there are as many armed enemies to resist Christ. It will, indeed, oftentimes fall out, that God will bridle the wicked, lest they raise some tumult, or break out into open rage. Yet, whosoever is not tamed and brought down to bear Christ’s yoke, he shall always hate his gospel. So that faithful and godly teachers must persuade themselves that they shall always have to deal with great store of enemies. Demetrius’ covetousness is manifest. Nevertheless, we must also know this, that he was Satan’s fan, [bellows] who, seeking by all means to overthrow Paul’s doctrine, found this fit instrument. Now, forasmuch as we know that Satan is a deadly enemy to Christ and the truth, do we think that he shall ever want ministers, who shall rage through his motion and persuasion, either with open rage, or else seek to work the overthrow of the gospel by secret practices, or spew out the poison of their hatred, or else, at least, show some token of enmity by fretting and murmuring?


If we live as we ought, we will cause pain and irritation to many who seek power or have power. We will be hated. And the mob is considered a tool by those who practice the dark arts of politics. In this case, the fear of the silversmiths is if the Pagan cult of Diana died because of the preaching of this Paul, they would be without a job.

So they whipped up a mob to yell that Diana (Artemis) was great. Did I mention that the Mob can be manipulated by prelates, priests and other religious politicians? Calvin did, in the previous paragraph, pointing out that the church in his day had been infected with careerism. Something that still exists: many people “called to the ministry” are aiming to get promoted to beyond pastoral care and into the committees of the institution. Although this is far more obvious when titles such as Bishop or higher are available, as for the Orthodox, Anglican and Roman, the same problem exists in all churches.

A Riot at Ephesus

Now after these events Paul resolved in the Spirit to pass through Macedonia and Achaia and go to Jerusalem, saying, “After I have been there, I must also see Rome.” And having sent into Macedonia two of his helpers, Timothy and Erastus, he himself stayed in Asia for a while.

About that time there arose no little disturbance concerning the Way. For a man named Demetrius, a silversmith, who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought no little business to the craftsmen. These he gathered together, with the workmen in similar trades, and said, “Men, you know that from this business we have our wealth. And you see and hear that not only in Ephesus but in almost all of Asia this Paul has persuaded and turned away a great many people, saying that gods made with hands are not gods. And there is danger not only that this trade of ours may come into disrepute but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis may be counted as nothing, and that she may even be deposed from her magnificence, she whom all Asia and the world worship.”

When they heard this they were enraged and were crying out, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” So the city was filled with the confusion, and they rushed together into the theater, dragging with them Gaius and Aristarchus, Macedonians who were Paul’s companions in travel. But when Paul wished to go in among the crowd, the disciples would not let him. And even some of the Asiarchs, who were friends of his, sent to him and were urging him not to venture into the theater. Now some cried out one thing, some another, for the assembly was in confusion, and most of them did not know why they had come together. Some of the crowd prompted Alexander, whom the Jews had put forward. And Alexander, motioning with his hand, wanted to make a defense to the crowd. But when they recognized that he was a Jew, for about two hours they all cried out with one voice, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!”

And when the town clerk had quieted the crowd, he said, “Men of Ephesus, who is there who does not know that the city of the Ephesians is temple keeper of the great Artemis, and of the sacred stone that fell from the sky? Seeing then that these things cannot be denied, you ought to be quiet and do nothing rash. For you have brought these men here who are neither sacrilegious nor blasphemers of our goddess. If therefore Demetrius and the craftsmen with him have a complaint against anyone, the courts are open, and there are proconsuls. Let them bring charges against one another. But if you seek anything further, it shall be settled in the regular assembly. For we really are in danger of being charged with rioting today, since there is no cause that we can give to justify this commotion.” And when he had said these things, he dismissed the assembly.

(Acts 19:21-41 ESV)

I debated if I should find an image of this Artemis, but instead I have an old industrial building, now abandoned, that is between Waihola and Milton, that is about 10 km from anywhere. It was a fertilizer works, but the business failed many years ago. Those who put their trust in that business lost heavily: be they the unionised workforces (most if not all workers were in unions until 40 years ago, and this building has been abandoned before then).

The nature of this world is that things improve, old industries die: or as industries become too costly, the company dies. There are ruined mansions in my city: We have an industrial museum, for we have regulated heavy industry to the point where it is more cost effective to make such items in Korea and ship them across the pacific than make them locally.

And the mobs were invoked, there were protests. But it was as useful as sailing a rock.

We need to consider that Calvin has one thing correct. The people are religious, at all times, and in all eras. But the publick high church and cultus changes: from the Popism Calvin polemicized against to the High Atheist Church of Richard Dawkins that is the current religion of the progressive, the social justice warriors and the powers of this world.

we should expect opposition. We should expect people to foment demonstrations. We should expect people will just make stuff up and try to make the accusation stick. Until they cast us out. And when that happens, that society will enter a death spiral, as is occurring in parts of the Middle East. For we are the salt of the world: we preserve what is good. We are the light of the world: by preaching the gospel we force people to confront that which they err in and where they are sinful.

So let us keep short accounts with God on our faults. Let us do the same with our brothers and sisters in Christ. Let us back each other. For if they are coming for the Orthodox in Syria or the Catholics in the uSA, the Reformed will be next on the list.

Predestination and apostasy.

We have models of theology, or maps. But as the map is not the territory, neither is our model of God complete. As the map is carefully checked and revised to ensure that it is true and accurate (you do not want to go into the NZ forests without a topographic map and a compass — that fancy GPS does not work through dense bush, nor does it like being dunked in cold fast,. water), so out theology must be checked against what we know is true. And that is scripture.

Not tradition, for we can easily have errors in our traditions, and our traditions, like our theologies, are things that we made, and we are quite prone to error.

Which brings us to this passage. In it, the apostates are told that they cannot return to salvation if they reject it. I would speculate that this is the sin against the Holy Spirit that cannot be forgiven. But it makes those who say that our salvation is foreordained reason to pause.

Hebrews 6:1-12

1Therefore let us go on toward perfection, leaving behind the basic teaching about Christ, and not laying again the foundation: repentance from dead works and faith toward God, 2instruction about baptisms, laying on of hands, resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. 3And we will do this, if God permits. 4For it is impossible to restore again to repentance those who have once been enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, 5and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come,6and then have fallen away, since on their own they are crucifying again the Son of God and are holding him up to contempt. 7Ground that drinks up the rain falling on it repeatedly, and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God. 8But if it produces thorns and thistles, it is worthless and on the verge of being cursed; its end is to be burned over. 9Even though we speak in this way, beloved, we are confident of better things in your case, things that belong to salvation. 10For God is not unjust; he will not overlook your work and the love that you showed for his sake in serving the saints, as you still do. 11And we want each one of you to show the same diligence so as to realize the full assurance of hope to the very end, 12so that you may not become sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.

Interestingly, Calvin did not shrink from this passage, and commented on it

4. For it is impossible, etc. This passage has given occasion to many to repudiate this Epistle, especially as the Novatians armed themselves with it to deny pardon to the fallen. Hence those of the Western Church, in particular, refused the authority of this Epistle, because the sect of Novatus annoyed them; and they were not sufficiently conversant in the truth so as to be equal to refute it by argument. But when the design of the Apostle is understood, it then appears evident that there is nothing here which countenances so delirious an error. Some who hold sacred the authority of the Epistle, while they attempt to dissipate this absurdity, yet do nothing but evade it. For some take “impossible” in the sense of rare or difficult, which is wholly different from its meaning. Many confine it to that repentance by which the catechumens in the ancient Church were wont to be prepared for baptism, as though indeed the Apostles prescribed fasting, or such things to the baptized. And then what great thing would the Apostle have said, by denying that repentance, the appendage of baptism, could be repeated? He threatens with the severest vengeance of God all those who would cast away the grace which had been once received; what weight would the sentence have had to shake the secure and the wavering with terror, if he only reminded them that there was no longer room for their first repentance? For this would extend to every kind of offense. What then is to be said? Since the Lord gives the hope of mercy to all without exception, it is wholly unreasonable that any one for any cause whatever should be precluded.

The knot of the question is in the word, fall away. Whosoever then understands its meaning, can easily extricate himself from every difficulty. But it must be noticed, that there is a twofold falling away, one particular, and the other general. He who has in anything, or in any ways offended, has fallen away from his state as a Christian; therefore all sins are so many fallings. But the Apostle speaks not here of theft, or perjury, or murder, or drunkenness, or adultery; but he refers to a total defection or falling away from the Gospel, when a sinner offends not God in some one thing, but entirely renounces his grace.

And that this may be better understood, let us suppose a contrast between the gifts of God, which he has mentioned, and this falling away. For he falls away who forsakes the word of God, who extinguishes its light, who deprives himself of the taste of the heavens or gift, who relinquishes the participation of the Spirit. Now this is wholly to renounce God. We now see whom he excluded from the hope of pardon, even the apostates who alienated themselves from the Gospel of Christ, which they had previously embraced, and from the grace of God; and this happens to no one but to him who sins against the Holy Spirit. For he who violates the second table of the Law, or transgresses the first through ignorance, is not guilty of this defection; nor does God surely deprive any of his grace in such a way as to leave them none remaining except the reprobate.

I know that those who consider that we all have free will, and we all have moral agency have difficulties with the idea of predestination. For scripture says that we were chosen for salvation before the world began. Scripture also says that those who believe and come to Christ will be saved. But this is where ultra-Calvinism can descend into lawlessness, because one could say that since I am saved it does not matter what I do.

But it does. I checked with that French Reformer because God has given us moral agency to reject him. Despite the power of his spirit, despite his love, despite the great works of salvation we can reject him. And there is not a way back from that spurning.

Now, some then say that this could include sins: how can you say this because you yourself are not perfect? Calvin’s gloss on the text helps here — for he mentions quite serious and grievous crimes and says that they can be forgiven. He’s not being hyperbolic here.

Our job is to remain in Christ and to do his will. We trust for our salvation on Christ alone, and we trust that we will be kept for him on Christ alone. Not on us: for we will fail. Daily.

But the apostate has spurned that trust, separated himself from Christ — completely. This is not a time of wildness or despair with the Church (which is the error that Calvin mentions: when people were damned for committing any sin or not being at service).

It is deliberately choosing your own damnation. Let those who deny the gospel for does not fit their ideology, yet remain within the church, be warned.

Contempt & power or love and fruitfulness?

I do not know why I took one of the most difficult parts of the bible, and one of the lectionary readings for this Sunday, as today’s text. There are seven passages for today if you look at the daily readings and the lectionary.

What is running through my head is how does this fit with the Kingdom of God? Jesus took the Law and expanded it into intent. In doing so, he took the law to a point where no person can say that they are without fault.

Unless their conscience is seared. (And it if is, we are truly damned, for we have forgotten what is right and what is wrong. We have no conscience: there is no shame, no guilt, and no salvation.)

1 John 4:7-21

7Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 8Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. 9God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. 10In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. 12No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us.

13By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 14And we have seen and do testify that the Father has sent his Son as the Savior of the world. 15God abides in those who confess that Jesus is the Son of God, and they abide in God. 16So we have known and believe the love that God has for us.

God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them. 17Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness on the day of judgment, because as he is, so are we in this world. 18There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love. 19We love because he first loved us. 20Those who say, “I love God,” and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. 21The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also.

Only two points from this. The commentator divides this passage into four…

Hatred includes contempt. This is where relationships die. You stop caring for the other. They become moronic. They are no longer attractive. The love dies, and hatred arrives. In the end, we choose to love our spouses. Daily. And this can be killed by criticism, coldness, and abandonment just as surely as it is killed by unfaitfhulness.

We are ordered to love each other. This, clearly, is not erotic (only idiots such as the Bergites believe that) but considering each other’s needs, doing the best for each other.

In trust. which brings me to…

Fear is the consequence of unlove. Or Mistrust. Or contempt. You end up in a situation in which you can no longer trust anyone. in. the. organization. and then the correct response is fear.

Love does not come easily. In fact, love is expensive: caution is cheap. If we are in a situation like this… there will be fear.

Father’s Day comes along and… wait a second… we hear again about how hard mom works, how nobody truly appreciates her, and how dad is a big, lazy, stupid lunk that needs to get it in gear. Wait, what?!

That happened a few years ago and I went up to the preacher and tried to point out that slavishly sucking up to mom while kicking the dads squarely in the nads was not good. The guy deflected my criticism and then insinuated that I was oversensitive in being unable to take criticism… and that my anger was clearly due to a lack of spirituality! I was speechless.

And these same people wonder why the women are such great “prayer warriors” and why men tend not to be on board with the whole churchy church thing.

If you, as a leader, are playing power games, criticizing people who disagress with you, you are no servant, and you are treating your parishioners with contempt. There is no longer any love in your congregation.

And you have lost the secret sauce, if you will. For there is but one — and that is that we love each other in Kirk and out of Kirk. (Church to the non presbyterian readers).  It is our love for each other that is our greatest witness.

If there is fear, there is something wrong