Disclaimer: now that I have a job, there is no time to blog, so things that aren't necessarily related get lumped together where before they could have been two posts.
Snow and cold weather make me want to eat large quantities of soup. Yesterday at the grocery I caught an unmistakable whiff of potato soup and decided that's what we needed in our menu for the week. Unfortunately, they were not only completely out of potato soup mix, but also out of all the other common soup mixes so that the only flavors that were left involved wild rice. Don't get me wrong, a little wild rice isn't bad once in a while, but not when you're in the mood for creamy potato. This is the fifth time that I have been distinctly in the mood for something that my grocery store has been inexplicably out of. First it was the kikoman soy sauce, then, Campbell's tomato soup, then the correct size Mission tortillas, then the Barilla lasagna sheets, and now this-- potato soup mix. It seems like everyone wants to buy exactly what I want to buy, only they get there first. It could be attributed to the change of seasons; yesterday was the perfect day to buy soup mix because it was cold and rainy. And, smart people would have looked at the weather and anticipated that it was going to be cold this week, or, they could have just looked at their calendar. Everyone knows it's November, but I keep refusing to believe it, and the consequence is that I miss out on the good soups! I think I am somewhat justified in not believing that it's November. First, we've had pretty mild weather. Second, we haven't had to turn the heat on in our apartment yet. For some reason, our apartment retains heat very well, which is a blessing in that we will have a remarkably low electric bill for most of the winter, probably, but, I wake up sweaty most mornings even though it's 30 degrees outside. We haven't even switched to our comforter yet. So I was in denial... until today. Today, I heard the sound of little ice chips hitting my bedroom window. I left for Bible study, and it was sleeting. I don't think I've ever seen sleet. Always missed that one, somehow. So, it sleeted all the way there, and I was thinking, "This is so bizarre, but it's kind of nice, because you don't get wet because it bounces right off of you." I went to the first part of my class in a room with no windows, and when I walked out of the room, it was blizzarding outside-- big, wet snowglobs. And all the moms said, "my kids will be so excited!" I was in shock. Once it snows, there's really no turning back. I finally have to face the reality that I live in Wisconsin and it's going to be cold cold cold until April/May. I actually really like snow. But now I have to go to Target and buy those inside floor mats for our snowy shoes, and you know what, all those other rational/plan ahead people will have gotten to them first and they will be out of stock for weeks!
I did learn something today, and it's not at all related to the weather. I just wanted to get all that off my chest, but today at the Bible study we were talking about the Acts 15 passage and the Jerusalem council. The context is that Paul and Barnabus have gotten back from their first missionary journey where they saw huge numbers of non-Jews believe in Jesus. They are spending some time in a city called Antioch. Some guys come up from Jerusalem who are part of this group called the "Judiazers" (cool name, huh?) and they are telling everyone at the Antioch church, people who are mostly Greeks, not Jews, that they need to follow the law of Moses and get circumcised if they want to be saved. Basically, they have to become Jews before they can become Christians. Paul and Barnabus are like "No way Jose! We have worked too hard to teach these people the truth for you to come up here and wreck everything." So they go up to Jerusalem (one always goes "up" to Jerusalem no matter what direction you're actually coming from because of the altitude) and have this meeting with all the leaders and elders of the church there. And they decide that it's by grace through faith that both Jews and non-Jews/Gentiles/Greeks/everyone else are saved, not through following the law or being circumcised. The law and Jesus aren't of equal importance. Jesus gets all the importance, and nothing can be added to him and his work on the cross.
I thought I understood all this pretty well, until the speaker started relating this incident or crisis in the church to today. She asked this killer question about the things that we add to the gospel that aren't actually a part of it. And immediately my mind flashed to my church, and all the homeless people who are part of the congregation, and the people who didn't grow up in the church the way that I did. People who had wild lives before they came to faith. It is hard for me to accept people in the church who lived in what I would deem "big-time sin" before they got saved. And God has worked with me on this before through the parable of the prodigal son where I am the older brother who says, "What the heck. How can you let them in? I've done everything you ever asked (a far cry from the truth)." But, the point of that story is that the brother was too caught up in his own achievements when he should have been looking at God. It isn't about what he did or about what the brother did. The point of that story is to showcase the mercy of God, without which neither he nor the brother would have had anything.
What are we adding to the gospel? I had to sign the community covenant again to do some editing for a Wheaton prof. For those who don't know, the community covenant is a document that all the students and faculty at Wheaton commit to uphold. It basically outlines what the Bible says about how to live. There was a clause that I noticed this time through about self righteousness. It defined self righteousness as "the imposition of extra-biblical standards on others." Whoa. Wait a minute, I'm not self-righteous... at least, I didn't think I was. Yeah, I can relate to those guys who went up to Antioch, because they were basically saying, "We wish that all of you pagans who now believe had lived like we had-- without idol worship or big time sin." They saw the Greeks from their Jewish perspective. They wouldn't have even been allowed to go into one of these people's houses to eat a meal because it was against the law. But then Jesus came along. Dr. Duane Litfin would call this a watershed moment. After Jesus came, Peter was directed by God to go to the home of a centurion named Cornelius, a Roman (this is in Acts 10, and it's a great story). He goes into the house and tells them the message of Jesus, and the Holy Spirit fills all of them, just like it filled the Jewish disciples. Whoa! What about the law? God told Peter, "don't call anything unclean that God has made clean."
Whatever the past was, it's totally obliterated in Jesus. And his followers are supposed to act like it never happened. Oh, you used to worship idols? No biggie. For the Jews and Greeks/Romans/Gentiles, the difference between them was still probably outwardly visible because of culture. For us today, the difference is visible as we get to know people and hear their stories. But, learning about someone's past shouldn't cause us to draw back from them, it should cause us to praise God for his mercy in bringing this person to a new life. This is hard for me, and maybe it's hard for other people who have lived their whole lives in the church and don't know much from their own experience about what it feels like to live outside the church. You would think that being a part of the church would give people better experience with welcoming others from different backgrounds, but that is a topic for another day. If we can only relate to people who are like us, where's the hope for everyone else? I am learning how to do this better at my church where I can talk to homeless people and I can watch other people interact with grace and love.