Friday, February 26, 2010

Wizards Wanted

In today’s reading in the One Year Bible, we encounter God’s severe instructions about “wizardry.” We are not to respect nor heed the words of a wizard, or anyone who claims to channel a familiar spirit. Such people are to be cast out of the community.

A hundred years ago, many of the great minds of Europe and America were caught up in the antics of spiritualists. They enjoyed parties where mediums raised tables and introduced the participants to automatic handwriting. Departed loved ones spoke through these mediums with convincing displays of protoplasm and blinking lights.

Most of it was fraud, some of it was not.

The scriptures make it clear that this is a boundary that a believer must not cross. Either God invites a person into the spiritual world or one must not go.

All through history, people have been trying to be “spiritual.” God doesn’t want us to be “spiritual.” He wants us to be mortals. Trying to be “spiritual” doesn’t usually turn out well. People trying too hard to become “spiritual” become either unhinged or demonic.

The Bible teaches that true spirituality works the other way: spiritual things become material.

The Word becomes flesh.

Man does not ascend up into heaven, as we learn from the story of the tower of Babel; God descends into the earth, as we learn in St. John 1:1-16.

When we try to conjure a “word” from God, we usually get into trouble. God sends a word to us – in a book.

God is as interested as we are in healing the ancient divisions between time and eternity, Heaven and Earth; and spirit and matter. However, we can’t repair the bridge from this side. Every time we try, we mess up. So God says, “Stop trying to be wizards. No soothsaying. No reading tea leaves, broken buzzard bones or frog entrails. Stop gazing into crystal balls, preparing horoscopes or puking up protoplasm in the form of dead uncles.

In other words, "Stop trying to get to me. I am coming to you. I know the way and how to get there. Just wait for me."

Christians believe that God did that when he “became incarnate.” What that word means is that God not only “took on” flesh, as a man might put on a coat, but that He truly became a man.

We call this belief the doctrine of the incarnation, a word which means “en-flesh-ment.”

Many of the other great world religions view our belief in the incarnation as disrespectful of God; perhaps even blasphemous. Muslims and Jews particularly find this doctrine repulsive. Although, as Karen Armstrong points out in her History of God, Jews and Muslims have had to propose different solutions to the same theological problem we face: how does God, being wholly spiritual, interact with a material world? (Both Jews and Muslims have come to see their sacred scripture as the solution to that problem.)

Most religions don’t believe that God does interact with matter. Some of them teach that we must learn how to shed our material existence. Others adopt some form of shamanism, where specially gifted “spiritual” people go into trance and run messages back and forth between our world and the other one.

Christians however, believe that the incarnation is an example of supreme intimacy between God and His people. We believe that God made Himself vulnerable to us, because He wanted to have a relationship with us. Therefore, for Christians, the incarnation is an overwhelming demonstration of God’s love. It tells us that God wanted so much for us to know Him that He laid aside His dignity and power to become one of us.

Listen to Robert Barron’s wonderful phrase that I used in an earlier blog:

“In His great leap out of Himself, God discloses, super-abundantly and overwhelmingly who He is.”

Martin Luther, the great Protestant reformer once said, “I have no God whether in heaven or in earth, and I know of none, outside the flesh that lies in the bosom of the Virgin Mary. For elsewhere God is utterly incomprehensible but comprehensible only in the flesh of Christ alone.” (Quoted by Donald G. Boesch, in Essentials of Evangelical Theology, Volume 1, p 127, Harper & Row, 1978)

The doctrine of the incarnation addresses the question: “who exactly is Jesus?” It is not a simple answer, though. Other than our doctrine of the godhead, the incarnation may be the most difficult Christian teaching to express and understand. Christians believe that Jesus is fully God; fully Man; and fully God and fully Man at the same time.

Jesus was a great religious teacher, much like other great religious teachers in many ways. However, unlike the others, Jesus became a bridge for us to God; a bridge made from his own flesh. After his death, Christ resurrected and ascended into heaven. This means that there is now a man (resurrected and glorified) sitting on Heaven’s throne. This Man, the risen Christ, intercedes for us and saves us.

Therefore, to Christians, the material body of Jesus is as important to us as His Spirit. We do not believe that he discarded his body even after the incarnation, as though it were “a thing” of no further use.

As the Nicene Creed puts it, “for us and our salvation He came down from Heaven and became a Man.

The incarnation continues.

God is no longer just a Spirit; He has flesh like us.

That fact has changed the universe.

We don’t need a good wizard. A shaman would be a poor substitute for what we already have.

We have God.

God with us.

God in us.

God for us.

1 comment:

rebecca said...

Hi I believe there is a difference between wizards and the spiritual life of a child of God. As a child of God, His Holy Spirit lives in you. How can we not live a spiritual life.
The Bible says to worship the Lord in spirit and in truth. John 4:23
1 Corinthians 2:14 People who are not spiritual can't receive truths from God's Spirit. Only those who are spiritual can.
1Peter 2:5 Through Jesus we offer spirtual sacrifices that please God.
Ephesians 5:19 Be filled with the Holy Spirit
Singing spiritual songs.
I also don't think that we conjure up a word from
God. 1 Corinthians 12:4 says There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit is the source of them all. Some He gives great faith, some miracles, some words of knowledge, prophecy, tongues and interpretation and much more.
Thank you Lord for your Holy Spirit.
1Thessalonians 5:19
Do not stifle the Holy Spirit. Do not scoff at prophecies, but test everything that is said. Hold on to what is good. Stay away from every kind of evil.
Thank you