We had a guest speaker on Easter Sunday.
He claimed to be the “Chief of Sinners,” the world’s most religious man, author of the world’s best-selling book (The Bible), and a slightly above average tentmaker.
The Bible is actually all about camping in tents, who gets to go into what tent or who’s tent, and how all our tents could turn into one enormous temple.
Having borrowed my two-man pup tent, he set it up on stage and shared what I had told him: “This is a special tent. My father and I used to camp in the wilderness in this tent. He’d pull me close and tell me stories; I’d lose myself and find myself in him. He let me know—out of all the things in his stories—he thought nothing was better than me. Outside of the tent, I felt like I was never enough; inside the tent, that thought didn’t occur to me and I would fall into a delicious sleep. Outside the tent, I worried about what had been and what might be; inside the tent, I was utterly content with now. Outside the tent, I was always trying to be “me;” but inside the tent, I am who I am. I’m home.”
Our guest speaker then shared that his friends called him “Tiny,” pronounced “Paulos” in Latin.
Saul is his Hebrew name—Rabbi Saul, that is—but he preferred Paul.
“Easter for me, happened on the road to Damascus where I was going to commit religious genocide,” said Paul. “I had become so evil for I had tried to make myself so good. It turns out that I wasn’t the savior of Israel but, rather, the Israel that needed saving.”
“Suddenly a light, brighter than the sun, showed all around me. A voice said, ‘Saul, why are you persecuting me. It’s hard for you to kick against the goads.’”
“Easter killed me,” said Paul. “To quote myself, ‘I suffered the punishment of eternal destruction that comes from the presence of the Lord (2nd Thess. 1:9).’ But eternal destruction is the presence of eternal construction; the death of death is the presence of eternal life,” said Paul. “And that’s what Romans is all about and that’s why I borrowed your pastor’s tent.”
“The Bible really is all about destruction, construction, and camping. It’s all about this tent inside this other tent inside a courtyard and what you need to do to get inside that innermost tent. It’s God’s tent and it can kill you.”
“In the book of Hebrews, we explain,” said Paul, “that the outer tent and courtyard represent this present age but the inner sanctuary, behind the curtain, is like the presence of the age to come, the Sabbath of God, the 7th day, when ‘it is finished’ and ‘everything is good.’”
The Israelites camped with this “tabernacle” in the wilderness, just as God instructed but then put it in a giant stone box that we call the temple.
“Y’all find this to be boring,” said Paul, “because you don’t know that ‘y’all are God’s temple.’ Or as Jesus said to us Pharisees, ‘The Kingdom of God is within you.’”
Paul reminded us of what we’ve already learned: that the Garden of Eden is in the inner tent in the depths of the temple that is you. But just like every adam (human), when we were tiny, we each took “knowledge of good and evil” and began to judge ourselves in order to make ourselves in the image of our creator; we each began to grow an “ego.” And in this way, we were exiled from ourselves, our true selves, and so no longer at home in our own “lives.”
“So, this is the situation of every adam that has become self-conscious,” said Paul. “You have a ‘life,’ (a self, a psyche) constructed with your decisions, which I call ‘the flesh.’ It’s like this beautiful old stone building in which we’re meeting. It’s like the outer courts of the tabernacle and temple. Very nice. But you worry about this ‘me’ that you have created, for it’s lonely as hell and falling apart, so you wonder what does it all mean?”
“You worry about yourself but in the depths of the old stone temple that you think is you, there is a little tent. In the tent is an Ark (literally translated: “a coffin”) made of ‘tree.’ In the coffin is law inscribed on stone; that’s dead knowledge of Good and evil. On top of the Ark, made of ‘tree,’ is the blood of sacrifice and ‘the life is in the blood.’ Its Law covered in Life; It’s Mercy exalted over Judgment; it’s the throne of God; it’s the revelation of Love; it’s the Plot: Eternal Life. But the way is guarded by two cherubim, a drawn curtain, and the sword of the High Priest.”
“When Jesus stopped me on the road to Damascus, he said, “It’s hard for you to kick against the goads.” I was being goaded from the outside in, by the grace of every believer I persecuted and I was being goaded from the inside out, by a whisper from behind the curtain in the sanctuary of my soul. I was imprisoned in a house that was condemned.
Romans 7:24 “Oh wretched man that I am who will deliver me from this body of death?”
Romans 7:25 “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
“This body of death” is “me-sus,” the lie that I am my own salvation.
And the Judgment of God is Jesus, the Truth that Yahweh is salvation.
The manifest presence of Jesus is the utter destruction of “me-sus.”
“On the Road to Damascus, Big Old Rabbi Saul died, and Tiny Paul was born,” said our guest speaker.
Romans 7:25 “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
Romans 8:1 “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
It’s “me-sus” that crucified Jesus but in Jesus, I see that “me-sus” is already condemned.
All our self-righteousness only accomplished the crucifixion of the righteousness of God.
Self-righteousness accomplishes the knowledge of evil.
The Righteousness of God accomplishes the knowledge of the Good.
Jesus is the Righteousness of God.
At the end of this age and the beginning of the next, Jesus cried ‘Father, forgive’ and ‘It is finished’ and then, delivered up his Spirit. And at that moment, the curtain in the temple—separating the inner tent from the outer temple—ripped from top to bottom.
“It happened in a moment and yet it took a lifetime to die to myself and rise from the prison that I thought was ‘me,’” said Paul.
“So right now, you can exist in the outer courts, constantly judging yourself, wondering if you are enough, trying to love, unable to love, trying to save yourself, only condemning yourself, terrified to die and unable to die, haunted by your past, terrified of your future and unable to live now. Or you can enter the innermost tent. Romans 7:22, You can “delight with [the living law of Love] in the innermost man.”
In Christ you can say “Dad . . . I’m scarred that I’m not enough.” And in Christ you can hear your Father reply, “You are in me and I am in you. I am your blood and I am more than enough. I am making you in my image and I will not fail, for it is finished. You are my beloved son, my beloved daughter, in whom I am well pleased.”
The last great feast of the Hebrew year is the “Feast of Tabernacles (or tents).” All of Israel camps in tents for seven days as they did on the journey through the wilderness. On the eighth day, like an endless seventh day, they pack up their tents and party in a new Jerusalem. It’s a picture of the New Jerusalem that is a garden and a temple, and that is coming down, and in which all things have become new.
Paul gave us communion and then said, “Close your eyes. And in the depth of your being say ‘Abba.’ And in that place, hear our Fathers voice, ‘You are, and you will always be, my beloved.’ When you leave this place, this place leaves with you and in you. And now it’s Easter.”