Updated: Jan 28
We are now at the second Sunday after Pentecost, so the ordained are getting settled into their ministries. The lessons of this week shed light on the challenges an apostle faces, after speaking the truth to others has begun.
It is not to be assumed that Elijah, David, Solomon [for alternate OT readers], Paul or Jesus were newbies as ordained priests for the One God [YAHWEH], as their devotion was always tested for weakness. The apostle knows this will always be the element of persecution that has been promised.
Still, persecution does not always come as a direct threat to one’s being. Often, a new apostle will face the “Consuela effect” [named after the maid on Family Guy].
People claiming faith act like they understand what an apostle says, then they go about doing what they had been doing before.
Call that the, “That’s Nice … I Clean Now” type of persecution.
Another way that new apostles can find a low level of rejection is when so-called Christians receive the message an apostle gives, but then (because the apostle is new and unknown) they become easily persuaded to follow someone else, who offers a different message. This is regardless of how amazed they were at the truth spoken by the apostle.
Call that the “Oh, I forgot all about you” effect.
Of course, the primary form of rejection of an apostle comes when a person professing faith sees the apostle’s message as a threat to the stability of the way things have always been, so plots and schemes are whispered behind an apostle’s back, which are not favorable to the apostle’s well-being.
Call that the “Watch Your Back” form of persecution.
That was what Elijah faced as he and 100 priests of the One God were all who were left in the Northern Kingdom, after Ahab and Jezebel plotted to kill them all. A man named Obadiah had helped those 100 stay alive, hiding them in two caves. Elijah left that safety and sought out Obadiah and told him to arrange a meeting between him and the 450 priests of Baal that Ahab had advising him.
The persecutors were to be directly confronted via a “my God against your gods” contest. The meeting was arranged on Mount Carmel.
It was like a “Cook-off for God” challenge placed upon the persecutors. Elijah presented a simple task for 450 priests to cumulatively have their god, Baal, do: ignite dry wood under a grill, with fresh beef waiting to be cooked up.
They could not do that. Elijah mocked their god while they cried out feverishly to get Baal to come down from heaven and set the wood ablaze.
In reality, “ba’al” means “the lord,” and there were many gods who the Assyrians and Phoenicians [non-Israelites] worshiped, such that Ba’al Hammon and Ba’al Zebub were only two names commonly worshipped.
Later, the “ba’al” title would be left off, so the god worshipped would just go by one name. One of those worshiped then (and still a huge lord followed today) is Mammon, who probably was originally called Ba’al Mammon – the Lord of Wealth.
Elijah and the other priests of Israel who had been hidden in caves by Obadiah served One God who had no name. We see that today when Jews speak of “G-d,” not even pretending to say they can give a name to one who cannot be named. God told Moses to tell the Israelites in Egypt he was to be “I Am Who I Am,” the closest translation of YHWH.
YHWH is not a good god’s name, such as the “Lord of Money” is, or the “Lord of Grain,” the “Lord of Spring Rain,” or the “Lord of Fertility.” Jezebel had married Ahab and introduced the concept of a specific god for a specific need, rather than one overall god.
The Egyptians had a similar polytheistic belief system, until one pharaoh [Akhenaten, as Amenhotep IV] said, “We are only going to worship one god – the god Ra – the Sun god.”
When Akhenaten died, his “one god” ideology fell out of favor and his name was wiped from the records, returning Egypt to worship of multiple gods, each with a specific talent.
Elijah might have teased the 450 priests of Ba’al to, “Call upon Ba’al Barbeque to light your grill!”
This lack of a need to divide One God into many lesser functions is a major lesson that newly ordained apostles learn. That is what Paul warned the newly ordained of the churches in Galatia about.
When Paul asked them, “Am I now seeking human approval, or God’s approval? Or am I trying to please people?” he was telling them he was not the Lord of the Gospel, such that one should put a statue of Paul on the mantel and pull it down whenever one wanted to pray to Jesus Christ.
That is why Paul said, “If I were still pleasing people, I would not be a servant of Christ.” Paul, as a name, was insignificant. No apostle of Christ … no servant of the One God … can be anything more than the messenger of the word of God.
Anyone who was traveling through Galatia, stopping at one of the newly organized Christian churches, either spoke as a nameless entity speaking for God and Christ, or they came promoting themselves or another who claimed to be the Messiah of the Jews.
Paul made it clear not to listen to those named fellows, when he wrote, “the gospel that was proclaimed by me is not of human origin; for I did not receive it from a human source, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.”
Only the Mind of Christ speaks through an apostle, as the voice of YAHWEH.
That included Jesus, the Son of Man, born of a woman … who was human like we all are … all sons and daughters of God as human beings. But, no words spoken by apostles [of any gender] come from a human origin, such that no sect of religious philosophy has figured out what Paul and/or Jesus [or Elijah, David, or Solomon] meant.
Only when the Mind of Christ has replaced the human brain can ALL understanding take place.
Thus, in the Gospel reading, when a messenger is sent by the nameless Roman Centurion, requesting that Jesus heal his ill slave, who did good works and was a worthy human being, the Centurion displayed great faith in the God of Jesus … more than great faith in the human being named Jesus.
The Roman Centurion knew he was in a position of power, a position that was and could always be filled in the future by capable leaders of soldiers. Any one proven as capable would then give orders and those orders would be acted upon quickly by servants to that master.
Jesus was seen by the Roman Centurion as nameless, as the one people talked about was simply a human being with close access to a powerful God. When Jesus gave orders, they too were acted upon quickly, but not because of a command given by the only person who could ever give commands. Those healing powers came because of a prayer sent to a most powerful God, just as a Centurion would send a request to his superior, in order to receive authority to act.
Thus, the Roman Centurion held great faith in the truth that was told by witnesses of a human being who worked miracles for God on earth. He believed Jesus would help others who were good people and also helped others.
Now, what is seen (but not seen) is how Jesus responded to the message of faith sent to him by an unnamed Roman commander, as a prayer for his slave, who was a good man, loved by many.
Jesus, we are told by Luke, “heard this [and] was amazed at [the message sent by a Gentile Centurion], and turning to the crowd [of Jews] that followed [Jesus], he said, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.” We are not told that Jesus did anything to heal the good slave. He only spoke those words as an apostle of the One God.
What is missed completely is Jesus was not in a land named Israel. The land named Israel was the name of the nation David and Solomon ruled, and it was the name of the Northern Kingdom, in which Elijah served. Jesus had lived his entire life in the Roman kingdom named Judea [under Herod the Great], later divided into the provinces of Galilee, Perea, Decapolis and Judea. Jesus never lived in a land named Israel.
That means Jesus spoke the word of God, such that God saw that land as Israel. Jesus spoke nothing to heal the slave because God’s remarks instantly filled the good slave with the healing power of God’s Holy Spirit.
It might even be that the slave was the one who influenced the Roman Centurion to become a Christian … as an apostle of God and Christ … who made it possible for an angel of the Lord to contact that Centurion, telling him to send messengers to bring the apostle Simon, called Peter, to him.
That Roman Centurion was then named Cornelius.
The point of this week’s lessons for newly ordained apostles is that all apostles of Christ have the value of zero. Thus, through the law of arithmetic, 0 + ∞ = ∞. Any other value added to the infinite everything of God leaves only that value: 1 + ∞ = 1 – ∞ = 1.
Thus, Elijah prayed: “O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel, that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your bidding. Answer me, O Lord, answer me, so that this people may know that you, O Lord, are God, and that you have turned their hearts back.”
That is why Paul introduced himself as, “Paul an apostle– sent neither by human commission nor from human authorities, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father.”
It is why the Roman Centurion prayed, “Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; therefore I did not presume to come to you.”
It is why David sang the praises:
“Ascribe to the Lord, you families of the peoples; ascribe to the Lord honor and power.
Ascribe to the Lord the honor due his Name; bring offerings and come into his courts.
Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness;
let the whole earth tremble before him.
Tell it out among the nations: “The Lord is King! he has made the world so firm that it cannot be moved; he will judge the peoples with equity.”’
Perhaps we can see why Luke wrote that Jesus “was amazed” that no Jew had shown him “such faith” as that the Roman Centurion had shown. Perhaps we can see how Paul was “astonished” that those proclaiming to be Christians, because they had been allowed to see the truth of the Holy Spirit, would then be “quickly deserting the one who called [them] in the grace of Christ.”
We are no different than the Jews of the Northern Kingdom, who thought worshiping Ba’al was okay, even though Elijah asked them, “How long will you go limping with two different opinions?” They did not know that Jesus would come and say, “You cannot serve two masters.”
We read that but we cannot see how serving the Lord of a Weekly Paycheck makes us limp along to the bank to deposit the check, when we know we cheated people in order to survive. We do not serve two masters … we serve many masters: I-phones, computers, automobiles, houses, and vacations at Disney World, on and on and on.
Now serving: football, money, ego, and corporations.
We call ourselves Christians when we are not filled with the Holy Spirit to the point that we recognize our value of zero. We have to have zero ego value to be Christians. We have to be servants of God – not self – to be Christian.
If any of you have watched the HBO series Game of Thrones, then you know that series certainly is not a place to seek religious guidance. Still, I was reminded of a storyline in that show, where a young Stark family daughter had sought out the temple of “the god of many faces” as a place of refuge. She sought spiritual powers to kill her enemies.
In her experiences inside the temple she was stripped of her ego, in a brainwashing kind of way. She was repeatedly asked the question, “What is a girl’s name?” She learned never to answer with the name she had been known by, before entering the temple. She learned to answer, “A girl has no name.”
If you look closely, you can see just how well that reflects the loss of ego that God and Christ require of an apostle – the likes of Elijah, Paul and Jesus.
The concept of “a girl,” which is one of all who classify as “girl,” is impossible to give a specific value to, such as one proper name. It would be egotistical to say that all girls are named the same as one girl. Thus “a girl has no name.” A girl is simply a girl.
When one applies this to the question, “What is a Christian’s name?” the tendency is to blurt out one’s own name. “I am a Christian” is not the same as saying “YHWH Christian.” It places “I” at the center of all that is Christian.
To see “YHWH Christian” as meaning, “A Christian has no name,” by stating that “I Am Who I Am Christian,” only God is of value. As such, all Christians are God speaking through human beings whose name is of no value.
To put this in words that Forest Gump’s momma might have said: “A Christian is as a Christian does.” No one human being can claim exclusive rights to Christianity, just as the Stark girl could not claim exclusive rights to being a girl.
Paul said it perfectly, speaking from the Holy Spirit’s guidance: “I did not receive it from a human source, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.”
A Christian has no name that alone is representative as valuable, because only God has value that is everlasting.
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