In my experience, liberal churches are really into peace and inclusion. And so, of course “All dogs go to heaven.” And in my experience, conservative churches are really into righteousness, which implies some exclusion… so no dogs, few dogs, or only your dogs go to heaven.
It seems to me, that for liberals, God is like everywhere and everything, which can be a lot like saying, God is nowhere and nothing. But for conservatives, God is “this where” and “this thing,” and yet so small he can’t save, and we must save . . . even from him.
For liberals, God tends to be extremely large but profoundly vague; and for conservatives, wonderfully specific and yet so small he could fit into a box . . . or a coffin.
It seems to me, that we need a God so large that whenever and wherever we go, there God is, and there is nowhere that he is not, and yet we need a God so small that we could know him and therefore trust his heart whenever and wherever we are.
In Genesis 14, two thousand years before Christ, and hundreds of years before there was even one Jew, Abram returned from “The Slaughter of the Kings,” when and where he saved the people and possessions of Sodom from four kings of the north (You heard correctly; read your Bible; Abram saved Sodom).
Bera, the King of Sodom, had fled Sodom and escaped capture. But now, he meets Abram in the valley of Shaveh (bottom of the valley of Hinnom, often translated “Hell”), with the plunder of what had once belonged to him. “Now the men of Sodom were wicked (Genesis 13:13).”
So, with blood on his hands, Abram meets the King of Sodom at the edge of “Hell.” Every been there? Is God big enough to handle a time and place like that? And is he small enough that you could know his heart, and so trust him when he does.
“And Melchizedek King of Salem (which we call, “Jerusalem”) brought out bread and wine, (He was priest of God Most High, [El Elyon]). And he blessed him saying, ‘Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; and blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand!’ And Abraham gave him a tenth of everything.”
Melchizedek means “King of Righteousness” (sounds conservative) and he was King of Salem, which means Peace (sounds liberal), and he brought out bread and wine (sounds like the body and blood of Jesus). Jesus once walked out of Jerusalem and gave us his body and blood on a tree in a garden, where “righteousness and peace kiss each other (Psalm 83:10).”
“El Elyon,” was the name for the highest deity in the Canaanite pantheon. Melchizedek was a Canaanite (probably Jebusite) priest. Abram (Abraham) tithed to him and then referred to Yaweh as “El Yahweh, El Elyon,” (the Lord, God Most High).
The author of Hebrews, quotes the Psalms and tell us that “Jesus is a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.”
Why couldn’t others, like Buddha for instance, have been priests “after the order of Melchizedek?” Those thoughts make us nervous. We think, “If God is that big, how would we know who he is and who he isn’t, and so guard from deception?”
Melchizedek just offers the bread and wine and blessing to Abram with no mention of confirmation classes, church membership, or even baptism. And then, the King of Sodom tries to lure Abram into a relationship in which Abram would be indebted to Sodom and the King of Sodom could take credit for the Blessing of Abram.
So how do we recognize the Order of Melchizedek and the Blessing of God, while avoiding the Order of Sodom and the Curse of Evil? The Bread and Wine is Free; It’s Grace. But the offers of Sodom will always require a transaction; it’s the work of the flesh. The moment someone asks you to make a vow, form a covenant, or pay a fee, just walk away for it will burn; it’s evil and it’s nothing.
In our Faith there is a fascinating dualism that’s not a dualism or at least not a dualism like other dualisms. It’s the dualism between Good and evil, Light and dark, Truth and lies, Being and non-being, that is “I Am” and “I Am not.”
To think that you could enter into a transactional relationship with the Creator and Possessor of all things is an absolute illusion called “evil.” But to trust that the Creator of all things freely gives us all things is knowledge of the Good, who is God.
God is larger than any liberal could imagine, and God is more specific than any conservative would dare believe. God is Jesus . . . and God is not, “Not Jesus.” Rejecting Jesus is not just rejecting a tribal deity; it is rejecting reality itself.
God, who is larger than large, chose to be as small as a baby in a manger and weak as a man on a cross that he might fill all things with himself, and that we would know him when he does.
God is big enough to handle any place in which you find yourself. And God is small enough that you would know him and trust him when he does. You can recognize him when he does, for he is absolutely free; he is Jesus—“high priest after the order of Melchizedek.”
I’ve found that liberals can be incredibly intolerant. And conservative can be the worst idolaters. I hope you’d be more liberal than the liberals, and more conservative than the conservatives. I hope you’d be so liberal that you’d go anywhere—slums, prison cells, your neighbor’s party—and so conservative that when you got there, you’d offer them Jesus: not a pamphlet, but a presence; not a transaction, sales pitch, or threat, but a revelation of Grace, even in body broken and blood, shed. If you do, I highly suspect that you are a priest “forever after the order of Melchizedek.”
You’re like an old dog that starts howling at the moon, until all the dogs in the neighborhood join the chorus. Watch the sermon to see what I mean.
All dogs do go to heaven, but none are evil when they do.
Jesus is the Way, and a very narrow door, and yet he descends into the depths of the earth and fills “I Am not,” with “I Am that I Am.” That’s good. That’s the Good.