My Claim to Fame
When I was fourteen I was on a connecting flight headed to LA and happened to meet Larry King (the longtime CNN talkshow host). Ok, so perhaps this isn’t so much a claim to fame as it is a claim to connect with someone who is famous. Perhaps I should call this my vicarious claim to fame.
I’ve always found Larry King fascinating because of his detached inquisitiveness. He would ask really hard-hitting questions, but seemed emotionally disengaged with those he was interviewing. It often felt painfully so. Perhaps I’m being too hard on Larry considering how invaluable seconds are in television interviews. Still, I’ve always felt for the interviewee. Can’t they at least hear a few words of sympathy or receive a nod of affirmation? People want to feel emotionally connected even if it’s an interview, right?
The Universal Longing to Connect
There is an ongoing (75 years!) Harvard research project that studied the life of 268 Harvard undergraduate men. These men came from all walks of life. There have been many who have headed up this project over the longevity of its undertaking. I would like to quote the latest in charge. He says something quite profound regarding human relationships. "Let me lay out 70 years of evidence that our relationships with other people matter, and matter more than anything else in the world," writes Vaillant in a 2009 Positive Psychology News article." (Harvard's 75-Year Study Reveals The Secret To Living A Happy Life. And Here It Is.)
Don’t gloss over that too quickly. The findings from this study are clear. What makes people happy and satisfied in life are deep, meaningful, relational connections with others. This is the case despite tragic external circumstances like cancer or poverty. I’m going to go so far as to say that the key to happiness is connection. It’s not a key, but the key.
Consider Jesus’ words in John 17:3,
“And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”
For those who have worried that heaven will be a long, boring, isolated ride atop a cloud you need to consider this verse. Eternal life is to know God on the most intimate of levels. It begins once someone trusts Christ in a saving way. My intent in this post isn’t to expound on all of the reasons as to why that will be so satisfying (I hope initially they’re self-evident), but to simply strengthen my case that we were made for deep, meaningful, intimate connection…especially with the God of the universe.
The Human Condition Hinders Connection
Unfortunately, as the Christmas season rolls around many of us are reminded of just how difficult it can be to connect with others in the way I’ve been describing. Christmas can be a time that reminds us of just how disconnected, detached, and trite some of our relationships are. There’s a profound fracture in the world because of sin. Sin embeds itself deeply into the human soul and its ripple effects sever the connections we’re supposed to have, both to God and to others.
Christmas — God’s Connection to Us
Let’s revisit my vicarious claim to fame. Larry King was once on the other end of a question and asked if he could interview one person who would it be and what would he ask. His response? “Jesus Christ.” And King followed up with, "I would like to ask Him if He was indeed virgin-born. The answer to that question would define history for me” (I can’t find the original source material for this quote, but it is all over the Internet, i.e. Questioning Christ).
I doubt very much Larry King would describe this desire of his as one of longing to connect deeply with the God of the universe. But this is precisely what we are celebrating during Christmas. We are celebrating the Divine coming into deep, meaningful, intimate contact with the dust of the earth.
The Hebrew writer reminds us of the beauty of God’s connection to us,
Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need (4:14-16).
Jesus sympathizes with every human weakness and every temptation to sin. He understands the human condition because he lived in the broken state of hunger, thirst, weariness, and death. He felt the pain of the profound fracture of sin. And he didn’t just feel this because of a dysfunctional family. He felt this most profoundly because the wrath of God poured out on him in our place.
And he endured all of the above and so much more so that we might experience connection with our estranged heavenly Father. Meditate upon that with me this Christmas and hopefully intimacy with God will be more than just a mere desire, but also a felt reality.
You’ve probably never considered the book of Deuteronomy as one long funeral sermon, given by a man who knew he would die, to a people aware of his impending death. That’s exactly what we reflected on this last Sunday.
This last week we made our way through the book of Numbers. We learned how this book, filled with some pretty famous Sunday School type of stories, is also shot-through with the sad themes of unbelief and rebellion. It is shocking how a people who experienced so many displays of God’s faithfulness could still be ungrateful and unsatisfied with his provision and timing. Which ironically makes it so relevant for our study, for we all struggle with being satisfied with the circumstances of our lives.
It is the backdrop of Leviticus — with its thousands of priests and millions of sacrifices — that causes the beauty of the work of Jesus — the one priest, and the once for all sacrifice — to shine all the more brilliantly.
There are a number of major themes that weave their way through the whole story of the Bible: covenant, kingdom, and temple, just to name a few. This last Sunday we looked at the theme of God’s presence in each of the sections of the story that we have covered thus far (Genesis 1-11, Genesis 12-50, and Exodus 1-18), and then how this idea of God’s presence comes into a bit of a sharper focus in Exodus 19-40.
I think it is probably safe to say that there are two great peaks in the mountain range of God’s rescue and restoration of the earth. What the cross-resurrection event is to the New Testament, the exodus is to the Old Testament. In each case, the great redemptive salvation act (exodus/cross) produces the covenant community of God’s people (Israel/church) who are called to serve God and his universal mission.
Genesis 12-50: I Will Bless You
It is hard to look at any one text in the Bible and say that it is more important than any other text of the Bible. Since the whole Bible is inspired by the Holy Spirit as God’s Words, it is all equally valid and useful for growth in the grace and knowledge of our King, Jesus (cf. 2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 3:18). At the same time, there are those passages that are particularly vital and important to knowing what God is up to in his rescue and restoration plan for the world.
The Whole Story: Genesis One Through Eleven
This last Sunday, January 7th, we kicked off our new sermon series, The Whole Story. As Genesis is the first book of the Bible, we began there, by covering chapters one through eleven...