This is week five of a six week series entitled “be with him.” This is the wish of Jesus for all of us and he specifically tells one of the men crucified alongside him that he will be with Jesus in paradise, that very day. What does it take to be with Jesus, particularly before the journey to paradise and leading to being with Jesus after the journey to paradise? We’ll use the weekly readings to pull out a theme that supports the overall idea that we can be with him.
It is the goal of Jesus disciples to be with Jesus. The apostles were with Jesus for three years and no doubt loved it all. Jesus is a very irresistible person, we read how crowds were always around him, following him wherever he was going. But even more than the irresistible factor Jesus is life giving. When Jesus asked the question do the disciples want to leave, “Simon Peter answered him, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:68-69) When there is a chance you can be with the Holy one of God, the one who has the words of eternal life, you should make every opportunity to be with Him. This series will look at ways to be with Jesus.
Over the past weeks we have been challenged to pray always, be a person of humility, recognize that Jesus came to seek and save and we are blessed with a God of the living. We know God will bring us back to life, particularly if we endure like Christ, fully alive, because God is not God of the dead but the living. If we want to be alive, fully living then we should be with Him. Being with Him is being alive.
In the readings this week we see that we are called to do and be imitators of someone else. In the first reading Malachi prophesizes a coming messenger, Lord and Angel announcing a day of the Lord. On this day if the people want to be judged righteous than they should imitate the righteous and do good works. In the letter to Thessalonica the community is told to imitate the apostles and work through their community life bringing the message of the gospel to all. Finally, the gospel tells us about the destruction of the temple predicated by Jesus which gives the impression of the end of the world. Jesus reminds the disciples imitating him they will be fully saved and watched over by God. We are challenged to be imitators of him this week which helps us be with him. We imitate those who are imitating God and we will be a joyful people seeing the face of God.
The readings this week are from the Lectionary for the Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time; Malachi 3:19-20A; Psalms 98:5-6, 7-8, 9; 2 Thessalonians 3:7-12; Luke 21:5-19. The readings guide us to focus on having many things but we are pulling out the message to imitate and be good, imitation of the righteous, imitate the Apostles and do all in the imitation of Jesus. Imitating him leads to being with him.Imitating him leads to being with him. Click To Tweet
The book of Malachi is from one of the last prophets chronologically. The name comes from the opening verse, is not a proper name, it simply means “my messenger” and we see it in the form, “behold I send my messenger. (3:1) Malachi also speaks about the coming of the “Lord of hosts” himself; in three different personages, the messenger who precedes the coming of the Lord, later on identified as Elijah, the Lord himself and an Angel. We who accept Jesus see the messengers as John the Baptist and Jesus the Messiah, bringing salvation. Malachi is telling those who up to this point in time if they are easily persuaded to not follow the law and the rules of the covenant, that this coming day of the Lord will change everything. Malachi writes these unrighteous must learn to understand the Lord God is faithful but for those who are wicked there is punishment and being thrown into a fire. The time is coming when the good will be rewarded and the wicked will receive the due they deserve. So all should be imitators of those doing good, it is the good who will receive a rich reward. Those who serve God are setting the right example, those who do not serve will find themselves in trouble.
The second reading, the second letter to the Thessalonians, takes on a few who are staring at what they believe is a Parousia and asking why should we work, the end is near anyway, why bother?. The author tells the people to imitate us. We continue our work and do the work of Jesus besides, as a model how to live. If people aren’t working then they shouldn’t eat. It was a model of community where all those who belong should contribute in some real way and receive the benefits as all others. But those who are not contributing, who think they are waiting out the end of the world, they should not receive the benefits of community. In fact they should not receive the benefits that God offers to those who are contributing members of the community. The author says when he and others were preaching among the people they worked in addition to speaking to be the people and bringing the message of Jesus. They understood what it took to participate in community as a contributing member. They understood it so well they declare that anyone who reads this material should imitate them. Imitation is a powerful declaration of correctness. We see a strong character who knows what is right and says do as I do and you will be alright too. This is the message of Jesus and the message of the gospel, don’t think about yourself, think of everyone and do the hard work that will be a good example to all.
In the gospel from Luke, Jesus is speaking to his disciples about the times that are coming of great destruction. In particular Jesus predicts the destruction of the temple which to the Jews would have been the end of the world, the temple is a sort of model of the known universe for them. Jesus speaks about those who will come in his name but will be false imitators and will lead people astray bringing more retaliation and destruction. There will be nations rising against nations, there will even be powerful natural disasters. It is a “last things” prediction or maybe even an interpretation of what happened after the destruction of the temple by the Romans in 70 A.D. The idea is to encourage people to remain faithful. A secondary purpose is to offer the view that God is in control and we must all trust God. A final purpose is to inspire those followers to receive all spiritual good from God, even taking their suffering and offering a lesson on how good can flow from it.
Jesus also addressed the fact those who act in his name, those who are imitators of him will be arrested and persecuted, they will be placed in prison in the name of Jesus. This will give them a chance to speak on behalf of Jesus but should not prepare anything to say as the Holy Spirit will fill them with Wisdom in the right moment. All who oppose them will be powerless to do anything against them. Even family members will turn them over to the authorities, some being put to death .Although they will be hated because they follow Jesus, not a hair will be harmed on their heads, their imitation will secure their lives eternally. Jesus is telling them follow me, do as I do and it doesn’t matter what happens, your life is saved and you will be secure by the hand of God. Imitation of Jesus is the only security that truly exists. We cannot secure our own future, we can only count on God who wants us to imitate him and be saved.Imitation of Jesus is the only security that truly exists. We cannot secure our own future, we can only count on God who wants us to imitate him and be saved. Click To Tweet
Although we are looking at end of times kind of discussion in these readings we are choosing to focus on the message we are called as followers to imitate what God offers. To imitate the messenger to come, or imitate the apostles teaching the communities to continue to work hard and not live. Finally Jesus our true example indicates even with all around us imploding, imitation of Jesus is the best means to live a secure and joy filled life. Taking on all the world, done in the name Jesus and the gospel will insure that the hand of God is all that is needed for perpetual salvation and a life eternal.Taking on all the world, done in the name Jesus and the gospel will insure that the hand of God is all that is needed for perpetual salvation and a life eternal. Click To Tweet
Be with him – imitators of him
We read above that a way to a future of salvation, joy and to be righteous we must imitate others who are imitating God, in other words we must imitate God. Does it seem possible to imitate God? Well we might not imitate God precisely but we can be people who aim for God’s imitation as a goal and even falling short we allow God to reach down with grace so we may be a more perfect imitation of the one in whose image we have been created.
Imitation is flattery. When we want to be like someone we are saying who they are and what they do is who we want to be and what we want to do. We are saying their life is lived in such a way that we want to live the same way. Of course there are other forms of imitation that can be annoying or cheating; like when your little sister is repeating everything you say to be annoying, or if someone takes your ideas and uses them for themselves.Imitation is flattery. When we want to be like someone we are saying who they are and what they do is who we want to be and what we want to do. Click To Tweet
Let’s assume we want to be imitators for the right reasons, we want to be more like the one we imitate because who they are is a more perfect being. How do we imitate someone? Well some definitions would say we try to be exactly like the person we are imitating, the same style of dress, style of hair, the same facial expression, use similar words, and act similarly. The most effective of these are to listen to their words imitating their message, and to learn their actions and to behave in the same or similar manner.
The true subject of our imitation is God. In order to truly be imitators of God we must know him: in biblical language we say we know God by name which means we have intimate knowledge of God, a connection so close nothing about God surprises us. Imitators of God know what matters to him; his priorities, cares and concerns. To imitate God we have to know where he lives; knowing where God lives means we know God’s culture, his history, his language. To imitate God we must know what he has done; what acts he claims in history, what these acts mean and why he acts the way he acts. To imitate God we must know what he can do; his ideas for the future, the plans he has, the hopes he has and his capabilities.
Know him – to know God is to know his name, which in the bible means we have intimate knowledge of God. God has many names, he has over two hundred and seventy names in the bible. One common name is El, God; seen in El Shaddai, God Almighty; Bethel, House of God; Immanuel, God with us. We also see Yahweh. It is more personal, usually translated Lord. It is the covenant name of God. It is used when God made humanity. It is used when Abraham climbed Mount Moriah and built an altar, where God provided the sacrifice and which eventually became the place where the temple is built, and where Jesus Christ was sacrificed and rose again. We see “El” in words like Halleluiah, celebrate God, or Lord. But revelation is in Exodus 3:14 God revealing himself to his people, telling Moses, “I am who I am.” God is asserting he is eternal, he is, he was and he will be; he is perpetual, before all began and after all ends.“I am who I am.” God is asserting he is eternal, he is, he was and he will be; he is perpetual, before all began and after all ends. Click To Tweet
God says he appeared to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob but did not make himself known. God goes on tell Moses to, “say to the Israelites: ‘I am the Lord. … I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God, you will know that I, the Lord, am your God…’” (cf. Exodus 6:6-7)
We can also find Jehovah, the Latin name for Yahweh, Lord. He is Jehovah-Tsidkenu, God of righteousness; Jehovah-M’Kaddesh, the Lord who Sanctifies; Jehovah-Jireh, the Lord will Provide; Jehovah-Shalom, the Lord our Peace; Jehovah-Rohi, the Lord our Shepherd; Jehovah-Shammah, the Lord who is There; Jehovah-Sabaoth, the Lord of Hosts, Jehovah-Rphe, the Lord who heals.
Then Jesus Christ comes to earth, Jesus is Yeshua which means Savior; Christ means anointed one, the Messiah for who the world waited. The Lord Jesus Christ, who said, “Amen, amen, I say to you, before Abraham came to be, I AM.” (John 8:58) He is declaring he is the covenant keeping God, Jehovah God, they took stones to kill him. He is the Lord who loves you, the one who changes everything by his incarnation.
Knowing God’s name helps us know God. Knowing God helps us imitate him.
What matters to him – to imitate God we must know what matters to God. We see by the many names that God cares about many things, to provide, to bring peace, to be our shepherd, to heal, to be righteous, to sanctify, to anoint, to love, to save.God cares about many things, to provide, to bring peace, to be our shepherd, to heal, to be righteous, to sanctify, to anoint, to love, to save. Click To Tweet
But we see by the arc of history that people matter most to God. He creates to love and he loves what he creates. He entered history through creation, making all that he can love and even after the first people’s selfishness and rejection of God, he continues to find ways to make covenant with people, so that all people will know that God wants to be close to them, to love and help them.
God created a covenant with Noah, Abraham, the Israelites and King David all to create new partnerships that allow God to invite all people to relationship. These covenants where bilateral, God promises something and the people promise something. For the most part God holds his end of the covenant but the people break their side. So God promises a new covenant, one that is unilateral, God will provide and people only need to accept. Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of that covenant, it is a covenant of the heart and for God it is the most powerful sacrifice made to let people know they are deeply loved and nothing is more important to God than having a relationship with all people.
Knowing what matters to God helps us imitate God, what matters is what God loves.
Where he lives – to imitate God we must know where he lives. To know where he lives means we understand his roots, what has influenced him and leaving where we are to go to him. God is rooted in all of the universe, he creates all things and loves all he creates. For God everywhere is where he lives. He is in the hearts of people, he is in the water of the sea, he is in the rays of the sun, the stars of the night, the swaying trees of the forest, the drops of rain in a shower, the flight of a sparrow, the sting of a bee, the whistle of the dolphin. To know where God lives is to look and see the things that God creates. God is the God of the living and so all life has the presence of God.God is rooted in all of the universe, he creates all things and loves all he creates. For God everywhere is where he lives. Click To Tweet
We can’t imitate God if we don’t see God. If there is a part of creation that is alive we know God as its creator has left a little of himself in his creation. We can know God by knowing where he lives, he lives in all things. We should respect God’s creation and slow down enough to see the beauty of God in all living things.
Knowing where God lives allows us to imitate God, to go to where he lives and see him at home.We can know God by knowing where he lives, he lives in all things. We should respect God’s creation and slow down enough to see the beauty of God in all living things. Click To Tweet
What he has done – to imitate God we must know what he has done. There is so much God in history, a history that shows God moving creation from nothing to a kingdom. From the first creation, to the departure of the first humans from paradise, to God’s covenants with small groups of people establishing movement and example. God’s declaring he is the one God, changing the practice of human sacrifice to animal sacrifice and ultimately personal sacrifice that shows God through love of all his creation. God moved humanity from tribal love to a moral code that calls for everyone to love everyone, where it is better to serve than to be served, to give than to receive, to put others first and do for others what you would want them to do for you. We sometimes don’t think about the hostility and brutality of the world before God slowly moved us toward the message of love and caring. God moving us toward the message Jesus shared; to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us, to give our life for another.God’s declaring he is the one God, changing the practice of human sacrifice to animal sacrifice and ultimately personal sacrifice that shows God through love of all his creation. Click To Tweet
All God has done in the history of the world is a slow walk toward creating the Kingdom of God in the world. To create a world where everyone loves every one and all creation is respected and cared for without worry of money or payment. God has spoken into our lives so that in our heart we know love, to help a brother is more important that ignoring him in need, that our true worth is how we love one another.
God is not done, but what he has done has greatly changed the world as it continues a movement toward more love, more care, more beauty and more sharing of ourselves in others suffering. God knows we must live together to live at all, to see the other person as someone important to God and therefore someone who should be important to us. God has moved us from abandoning paradise to a place that looks more like the Kingdom of God each generation.God knows we must live together to live at all, to see the other person as someone important to God and therefore someone who should be important to us. Click To Tweet
Knowing what God has done helps us imitate God, it shows us how God is growing all creation to a kingdom where love is the core practiced principal, it goes beyond information to transformation.
What he can do – to imitate God we must know what he can do, where his capabilities will take everything. Knowing what God has done tells us what God can do. We see that God moves us from indifference and violence to caring, knowing and love. God is able to step into humanity, become flesh and live the life he wants each of us to live, the only human that has ever lived as God desires. God can take all the suffering and pain that the world highlights and turn it into healing and salvation. God corporately eliminates sin, he abolishes evil, he models love. God sent a Spirit that dwells in all creation, inside each of us as a powerful advocate who is for us. God can do all things for nothing is impossible for God.God is able to step into humanity, become flesh and live the life he wants each of us to live, the only human that has ever lived as God desires. Click To Tweet
We know from God’s accomplishments that God wants to create a new earth, a new creation in all things, a new person in all of us. God wants to return all to life, to eliminate death and to undo all that is not of God. God wants to invite everyone to his Kingdom, to have all choose a special home in the Kingdom of God, to know that God is making a special place for us that will be our forever place, a place of joy, happiness, and a communion of love so deep and rich it will be all we will ever desire.God is making a special place for us that will be our forever place, a place of joy, happiness, and a communion of love so deep and rich it will be all we will ever desire. Click To Tweet
God can do so much, unlimited possibilities. But God is limited by what we allow. If we don’t invite God to work in us, God will not. If we don’t desire God’s will be done in us, it will not. If we don’t invite God to heal our pain, remove our suffering, take away our anger and self-criticism, he will not. God is all power and yet his hands are tied by our lack of yes.
Knowing what God can do allows us to imitate God. We imitate God when we allow God to do what he wills in us. God wants the best for all creation and can do it, if we allow him.
We are called to imitate God, we must know God to be imitators of him. Imitation requires knowing God’s name, where he lives, what matter to him, what he has done and what he can do. It allows us to know God and ready ourselves to imitate God. We will never be perfect imitations but with God helping we will imitate God’s presence and lead others to want to be with him and know God is for them.
Be with him
Our God is a God who wants us to imitate him. By imitating God we open up awareness and we increase the desires for those who want to be with him. Being with God is the primary mission of each and every one of us. To be with him is to be in the best place possible. To take a big step toward being with God we should learn to imitate God. God dwells among us so that we can dwell with God. Being with him should be our greatest desire.