Saturday, January 10, 2015

Grace and Peace Nowhere Else

“John, to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace to you and peace from Him Who is and Who was and Who is to come [the Father], and from the seven Spirits Who are before His throne [the N.L.T. renders this “sevenfold Spirit,” based on Isaiah 11:2], and from Jesus Christ [the Son], the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth. To Him Who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen” (Revelation 1:4-6, N.K.J.V.).

I did it. I told our Wednesday night Bible study group that I’ll be starting Revelation in a few weeks. It’s been over six years since I taught through it last. It’s time.

The main reason I like teaching through it is because I’m not a fear-monger, and it seems that most Christians regard the Revelation with fear. I remember one church member saying they appreciated how I taught it because I didn’t make it “scary.” It’s a shame that anyone would. Why would anyone teach a Book which begins with a promised blessing (1:3) in a way that specifically takes that blessing away from the reader, hearers, and those who would “obey what it says”?

Anyway, last Thursday morning I got to the coffee shop well before dawn and well before the rest of the men. I needed to allow the caffè americano (my standard for Thursday mornings) time to counter the sinus meds from the night before. I can make coffee at home (and do). One of the main reasons for my Thursday morning routine is now the barista. He’s a (pardon the clichés) free-spirit, New Age, hippy-ish sort of guy. Somewhat older than me. I’ve only seen him in a less-than-happy mood once (and, given the tragic plane crash that had happened near his property, I understood). I like people like that. He knows what I am, what I do, and why I meet with the guys there. It was the first time I’d seen him this New Year. I don’t remember how our conversation ended up the way it did (sinus meds), but he mentioned that all he wanted was a good cup of coffee, family, and friends. Given recent events (I suppose this is a timeless principle, so it doesn’t matter what those are when you’re reading this), I ventured to offer, “and peace?”

“Yes,” my grey pony-tailed friend said, “peace. I think that there’s enough people who’re going to start focusing that the energy will cause a swell of peace soon.”

He talks like that. There’s some native Peruvian folk musician playing guitar in a decidedly non-Western way chanting in the background (I actually like the music).

Revelation doesn’t just begin with the promised blessing of 1:3. This is immediately followed with a benediction and doxology. That benediction begins as so many do in the New Testament, with the inspired writer wishing “grace and peace” to his readers.

Grace and peace.

In this case, the benediction is given from the Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Who are distinct from one another in Personhood yet are One God. In this, even at the beginning of Revelation, with all of its potentially fearful visions and words, is grace and peace.

We are told by the Qu’ran not to even say the word “Trinity” (“O people of the Book! commit no excesses in your religion: nor say of Allah aught but truth...say not ‘Trinity’: desist: it will be better for you: for Allah is One Allah,” 4.171, Yusef Ali translation). But how can we not? From Him alone is “grace and peace”! In the midst of trials, tribulations, dragons, beasts, warfare, fire, plague, and the very rending of the heavens, it is to He-Who-Is-Three-In-One that we must run! Run. Not just give lip-service to if we happen to sing the hymn “Holy, Holy, Holy” or the “Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow.” We must run constantly to the God of the Bible, Who is Trinity.

I have stopped wandering heretics from stepping on to my lawn while my children were out playing (2 John 10,11) with the simple confession, “we are trinitarian here.”

I have delighted to find Him on page after page after page in the Bible (not just Matthew 28:19; 2 Corinthians 13:14).

I have purposed that not just my Bible reading, but my theology, and, even more, my prayers will be directed specifically to this God Who is Three-in-One.

I will not even see His creation without seeing that it is the handiwork of Trinity (“In the beginning God [the Father] created the heavens and the earth. The earth was formless and empty, and darkness covered the deep waters. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters. Then God said [the creative Word, Who is the Son – John 1:1-3]...” [Genesis 1:1-3]).

The earliest known example of someone drawing out what is now known as the "Athanasian Shield" (by Peter of Poitiers, ca. A.D. 1210)
Grace and peace from the Trinity. May we, beloved Church, seek it nowhere else.

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