Category: Biblical Studies

Season After Pentecost, 2019 Year C : The Epistle Passage – How to live in response to the Divine: One lesson for Ordinary Time

“Now before faith came, we were imprisoned and guarded under the law until faith would be revealed. Therefore the law was our disciplinarian until Christ came, so that we might be justified by faith.” (Galatians 3:23 – 24)
The Jewish faith, as practiced in Paul’s times and among his peers, seems like an unusual faith indeed. Ruled by laws that dictated one’s habits from rising in the morning to going to bed at night. Many of the rules outlined relationships between fellow believers and relationships with non-believers. Compassion and charity were highly praised attributes. There were also laws dictating what to eat, wear, how to spend one’s time. And if looked at objectively, seemed to be designed more for surviving one’s environment. There was a challenge to the two sets of laws. The first set, relationship guidelines, were hard to do because at times it seemed to run contrary to human will and impulse – being nice, kind, and generous. Not everyone was able to do that. The second set, dietary and daily tasks of living, were also difficult to do – but in a different way. Tedious and exacting at times. It took time and resources to follow them. Dietary laws keep the people safe from harmful foods. Daily tasks of living were probably to keep the people safe from germs etc. Disregarding them had consequences. So did, actually, the relationship laws – different consequences though. The prophets were more likely to chastise the people ofr violating the relationship laws.
Now as I said (and some of this is my own theory) some sects of Jewish believers did not strictly practice the dietary and daily tasks of living. And they lived unhealthy lives, or died, because of those consequences. Interestingly in our modern times some of these dietary laws are no longer needed but practiced to show faithfulness and adherence to the Jewish faith. But what I am intrigued with is this; the Pharisees and Sadducees adhered to the dietary laws with exacting precision, and based their faithfulness and piety on following them. But as for the relationship laws, they were too hard – too much personal cost – and so they chucked them out the window. And Jesus chastised them for that! When Paul was writing to the new area churches, the dietary laws were the ones that were left in the past and the law of love and compassion was put to the forefront – as Jesus exemplified. It was a result of faith in Jesus and the Divine, and the gift/blessing that Jesus was that prompted the response.
“But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian, for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise.” (Verses 25 – 29)
The dietary laws (and tasks for daily living laws) might have kept the called and chosen people of God safe for this life, but it was the relationship laws that made that life pleasant to live and carried lasting consequences. (As modern practices evolved some to the dietary and tasks fro daily living laws become outmoded or irrelevant, but as I said before adhered to for tradition’s sake.) And if was the relationship laws that formed the basis of the faith life that Paul speaks of. No longer “clean” or “unclean” but everyone united in love – love for the Divine and love from the Divine – for a common faith. The apex of relationship laws. And in relationship to the Divine and governed by those expectations now. Because of that intimate family relationship with the Divine, we who believe and have faith are heirs to all that the Divine has in mind for us. How then, beloved reader, will we live in response to that? Selah!

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

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Season After Pentecost, 2019 Year C : The Old Testament Passage – Starting the journey of Ordinary Time

The Sundays after Pentecost have numbers, and each successive Sunday brings us closer to Thanksgiving and the end of this lectionary year. That they span over summer and well into fall will tell you there are many of them. The number of the Sunday indicates only which passages are for that week. If I told you this was Proper 7(12) it would tell you a great deal. So I will not enumerate the Sundays. I could also tell you that now there are two sets of Old Testament and Psalm passages each week, and each matching of Old Testament and Psalm passage have a connection point – that may or may not make sense. I will try to illuminate that connection. So here we are, at the first Sunday of the long Ordinary Time.

“I was ready to be sought out by those who did not ask, to be found by those who did not seek me. I said, “Here I am, here I am,” to a nation that did not call on my name. I held out my hands all day long to a rebellious people, who walk in a way that is not good, following their own devices; a people who provoke me to my face continually, sacrificing in gardens and offering incense on bricks; who sit inside tombs, and spend the night in secret places; who eat swine’s flesh, with broth of abominable things in their vessels; who say, “Keep to yourself, do not come near me, for I am too holy for you.” These are a smoke in my nostrils, a fire that burns all day long.” (Isaiah 65:1 – 5)
As to why I may choose one Old Testament passage over another, I cannot tell you. If it is one that I have not spoken to before I am more likely to choose it. Or if one is more “unfathomable” I may (or may not actually) pass on it. If I feel a flame of intrigue and passion, I will most definitely choose it! (That is how I have gotten myself sucked into some Psalm passages that vex me!)
As to this passage, the Lord God the Divine is chastising the called and chosen people for being so much less than the Divine expects of them. Not, mind you, all of them but enough that they leave a foul stench in the Nose of the Divine. Some of the commentators say of this passage . . . it is sometimes people who have gone so far astray from the Lord God who perceive themselves to be the more holy and religious. Meaning, I guess, that they have fallen into such false worship that it is so unworldly as to be mysterious and mystical. The “holy” part is not the authentic belief in the Divine, but worldly/earthly spiritually imbued that could send shivers down one’s spine. Think deep and dark evil!
“See, it is written before me: I will not keep silent, but I will repay; I will indeed repay into their laps their iniquities and their ancestors’ iniquities together, says the LORD; because they offered incense on the mountains and reviled me on the hills, I will measure into their laps full payment for their actions.” (Verses 6 – 7)
Now it is more than just a matter of worshiping in the wrong place, beloved reader. The Lord God the Divine is worshiped on flat open plains where one’s actions and attitudes are seen, and where one is amongst like minded believers. Up in the hills and mountains are the evil things, hidden dark things, idols that are not the true Yahweh. So abundant were they that it was more than just caution that would keep the true worshipper in the correct place. Giving heed to unholy (or perverted) deities was tantamount to damning one’s soul and spirit.
“Thus says the LORD: As the wine is found in the cluster, and they say, “Do not destroy it, for there is a blessing in it,” so I will do for my servants’ sake, and not destroy them all. I will bring forth descendants from Jacob, and from Judah inheritors of my mountains; my chosen shall inherit it, and my servants shall settle there.” (Verses 8 – 9)
But, says the Divine, wandering off to wild places does not necessarily mean one’s spirit and soul is condemned. And there may be good and true worshipers who see their peril before it is too late, or succeeding generations who do not follow their ancestors. For their sake, says the Divine, I will not destroy all of them called and chosen people.
That is important to remember, beloved reader, at those times we have gone astray. As I said previously, Ordinary Time is a long time – many miles to travel. We could get temporarily lost, wander off the good path, or slip up somewhere. If there is still good in us – as verse 8 says, blessing in some of harvests of the fruits – the Divine give us opportunities to mend our ways. Perhaps, beloved reader, something you read here in the coming weeks and months will help. Selah!

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

Trinity Sunday, 2019 Year C : The Psalm Passage – Preacher and Seeker discuss our relationship to the Divine

Seeker: “O LORD, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens.”
Preacher: Back in the time of the psalmist not much was known about the that was above the tallest mountains. That was considered the space of the birds, and above even that was Yahweh the Divine lived. Know we now that above the clouds the sky/atmosphere thins out and life as humanity knows it does not exist. That does not mean the Divine does not live in a dimension in that space that is not visible to human eyes. Humanity considers that even the Divine must have some sort of physical/tangible existence some where.
Seeker: “Out of the mouths of babes and infants you have founded a bulwark because of your foes, to silence the enemy and the avenger.”
Preacher: It may very well seem like questioning such things is an antithesis of the Divine. But we do ourselves no favor if we insisting on understanding the Lord God according to human terms.
Seeker: “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established; what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them?”
Preacher: And the Divine does care of humanity. In fact humanity is the focus of the Divine’s efforts and energy. Jesus came to earth because of humanity. The Spirit of Truth was sent because of humanity.
Seeker: “Yet you have made them a little lower than God, and crowned them with glory and honor.”
Preacher: Creation was sent in motion to give humanity a place to live, a place to learn, and a place to grow in wisdom and understanding.
Seeker: “You have given them dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under their feet, all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas.”
Preacher: Sometimes, I think, we have not tended to creation as the Divine would have wanted us to. But that is a question to be discussed and debated amongst humanity. How we treat our fellow member of humanity, that is a question that Jesus’ life was to settle. And even with that, we debate and disagree as to what the proper answer it. We are encouraged to look to scripture for the answers. But studying and searching scripture without the inspiration of the Spirit of Truth has resulted in a large amount of conflicting information. But then who is to say who has the best understanding of what the Spirit of Truth has to say! So, we muddle along, trying to do the best we can, and hope that others are doing the same. We all live under the same Divine. And the same Divine looks over us. Let us hope and pray that we do not go too far astray and not do too much damage to ourselves, others, and creation. We have been given a wide latitude of freedom by a Divine who loves us unconditionally.
Seeker: “O LORD, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” (Psalm 8)

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

Trinity Sunday, 2019 Year C : The Gospel Passage – The Divine revealed in parts and pieces

“I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.” (John 16:12)
If one might feel “left out” and “left behind” because one did not experience the actual physical presence of Jesus (I admit at times I feel like “one”), the compensation is that all that Jesus and the Divine had to say has been said to us through the Holy Spirit, scripture, and testimony of the saints and those than have gone before us. We can, in short, bear the things that the Divine has to say to us.
“When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.” (Verse 13)
What must it have felt like to know that your Lord and Teacher had things to tell you, but you were not deemed ready yet. I remember experiences from when I was young, and I knew that some thing – some type of information – was being kept from me. It was like an itch I could not scratch. Do you think, beloved reader, that is how the disciples felt?
“He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.” (Verses 14 – 15)
All that the Lord God Creator has/had Jesus also had/has. And the Spirit of Truth has that to impart to us. And it is a theological fact, beloved reader, that the Divine will discern when (and if) we are ready to hear it. Or, more precisely, understand it. To give you the best example that I can – I have some hearing loss. I hear most things, but some of it I hear only as sound and not distinguishable/discernible words. We MAY hear all the Spirit of Truth has to say, but it may be to our ears/spirit/soul just sound/noise and NOT anything that we can make sense of. Or maybe we do not hear it correctly and misinterpret it. We may beg and plead with the Spirit of Truth to quicken our understanding; but it does not happen. And worst of all, beloved reader, we may not even realize that we are only hearing/perceiving/understanding just a portion of the Divine Truth.
I can only wish, hope, and pray for you what I pray for myself – the ability to know fully and completely! Selah!

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

Trinity Sunday, 2019 Year C : The Epistle Passage – The Diversity of the Divine was thinking about us and loving of us

“Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God.” (Romans 5:1 – 2)
Paul, in the previous passage, had made a strong argument that we are justified by faith by virtue of the fact that we believe in the Divine who sent Jesus and raised him from the dead. This argument/conclusion coupled with the fact that the Divine had forethought this grace would be made available to us proves to me that we (humanity) have been foremost in the Divine’s thoughts. Actually, that does sound a little bit anti-climatic. Mayhap the audience that Paul was writing to found it more stirring. Although “sharing the glory of God” would be pretty awesome. It is the next section that has the relevant part to Trinity Sunday.
“And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.” (Verses 3 – 5 [emphasis mine] )
Jesus told his disciple the Holy Spirit would guide them, teach them, inspire them, and direct them. But I do not think he talked about the Holy Spirit loving us. That is not to say that Paul is wrong or is over stepping in his thinking. What I take it to mean is that it was obvious that the Holy Spirit would love us as Jesus loved his disciples and as the Divine loves us. It is an idea/concept that under girds the theology of a Triune Divine. Each aspect of the Triune Divine has compassion for humanity. And that is also pretty awesome! Selah!

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

Trinity Sunday, 2019 Year C : The Old Testament Passage – Thinking about the diversity of the Divine

Trinity Sunday – the Sunday in the church calendar where we pay special heed to the Triune nature of the Divine. Appreciating the diversity of the Divine means that one is open to not just three aspects of the Divine but that one is aware that the Divine can have many facets. The personification of Wisdom is only one of them.
“Does not wisdom call, and does not understanding raise her voice?
On the heights, beside the way, at the crossroads she takes her stand; beside the gates in front of the town, at the entrance of the portals she cries out:
“To you, O people, I call, and my cry is to all that live.” (Proverbs 8:1 – 4)
What one needs to remember when reading this passage, beloved reader, this is wisdom from one who is not necessarily speaking on behalf of the Lord God – but is most definitely inspired by the Lord God.
“The LORD created me at the beginning of his work, the first of his acts of long ago.
Ages ago I was set up, at the first, before the beginning of the earth.
When there were no depths I was brought forth, when there were no springs abounding with water.
Before the mountains had been shaped, before the hills, I was brought forth– when he had not yet made earth and fields, or the world’s first bits of soil.
When he established the heavens, I was there, when he drew a circle on the face of the deep, when he made firm the skies above, when he established the fountains of the deep, when he assigned to the sea its limit, so that the waters might not transgress his command, when he marked out the foundations of the earth, then I was beside him, like a master worker; and I was daily his delight, rejoicing before him always, rejoicing in his inhabited world and delighting in the human race.” (Verses 22 – 31)
It reminds me somewhat of what the Holy Spirit might say. Jesus Christ said he was with the Creator at the time of creation. And that he and the Lord God are One. It is not to far to say the Spirit of Wisdom might also be known as the Spirit of Truth/the Advocate who would come? Or, the Presence of Yahweh that was said to dwell amongst the Lord’s called and chosen people?

Genesis 1: says, “Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.” [NIV; emphasis mine] Who is to say what the Divine was like then, and what multiplicities there might have been in the Divine.
Trinity Sunday – I really like the day! May you, beloved reader, find communion with the Divine – delighting in the way the Divine makes its God-self known to you! Selah!

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

Day of Pentecost, 2019 Year C : Psalm Passage – The Divine in all of us

“O LORD, how manifold are your works! In wisdom you have made them all; the earth is full of your creatures. Yonder is the sea, great and wide, creeping things innumerable are there, living things both small and great. There go the ships, and Leviathan that you formed to sport in it.” (Psalm 104:24 – 26)

Any time the psalm passages talk about the sea or the ocean, or any type of collected bodies of water, I am enthralled. From little on up I adored frolicking dancing waters. Salty or fresh, it did not matter. And while I preferred to keep my distance, I was content to share those waters with the creators that called them “home.” In fact I have a fondness for such creatures as well.
It is said that biologically humanity came from the oceans; that over the millennia creatures that called the waters “home” adapted to an existence on land. Maybe I am a “throwback” in wanting to be in collected pools of water than on land. From little on up I have been able to float; my lungs need air though so actually living under water would not be possible. But I could float on the surface forever!

“These all look to you to give them their food in due season; when you give to them, they gather it up; when you open your hand, they are filled with good things. When you hide your face, they are dismayed; when you take away their breath, they die and return to their dust.” (Verses 27 – 29)

Whether on land or in the water, we are fleshly creatures that have limited existence. And we require sustenance to continue. Many decades ago I was awed and overwhelmed that I (or any human) could fleshly mortality and also be in the image of God, understanding at least something of the Divine. At look back on my days of dawning spirituality, and feel fortunate that opportunities were available to me to learn about spirituality. Thinking about it, being a spiritual contemplative and living in a human world is a lot like feeling at home on the water and on land. You choice, beloved reader, which existence is water or land.

“When you send forth your spirit, they are created; and you renew the face of the ground.” (Verse 30)
I think too what existence must have been like when searching for the Divine and the Spirit of the Divine was more difficult. That is, before Jesus Christ who made things so clear and before the apostles who taught what was past on to them. I think that a large reason why I am drawn to writing these types of posts. To pass on what was and is made known to me.

“May the glory of the LORD endure forever; may the LORD rejoice in his works– who looks on the earth and it trembles, who touches the mountains and they smoke.
I will sing to the LORD as long as I live; I will sing praise to my God while I have being.
May my meditation be pleasing to him, for I rejoice in the LORD.
Bless the LORD, O my soul. Praise the LORD!”(Verses 31 – 34, 35b)
This writing, beloved reader, harks back to the type of writing I used to do. More personal, less exegetical and pedagogical. I would have used visuals (ie pictures) but those can be terrible to format for online posting.
May you contemplate your existence, dwelling both as a creature of earth and a child of the Divine. Selah!
 

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

Day of Pentecost, 2019 Year C : Epistle Passage – All of the Divine under the Divine

“Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves.” (John 14:8 – 11)
Creator and Redeemer – yes they are one. It really could not be presented any clearer. I do and can understand though, if Philip and has fellow disciples had in mind a Yahweh that was very much different then Jesus, then maybe it would not seem logical and streamline that Jesus and the Divine who sent Jesus were one and the same. After all we have so many passages in the Old Testament that talk about “the One to come” but only in hindsight can be it realized that Jesus is “the One.” And, as I have repeatedly said the passages that are predictive of Jesus were not necessarily written in the context of the Messiah. Or at least not the Messiah that they were expecting according to the Adonai who they knew, or thought they knew.
“Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father.” (Verse 12)
I admit I am not sure what that verse means, so I consulted Albert Barnes, and there found the answer I sought. It is not the depth or magnitude of “works” that the disciples will do, but the effect over time and geography. As Barnes said, Jesus was “confined” to one geographic area and a limited span of time on earth. The disciples/apostles will carry forth the word of God and the stories of the works of Jesus Christ across distances and down through time. Of course this happened (or will happen) because Jesus is returning to heaven and the Holy Spirit will be sent down to the disciples.
“I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it. “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.” (Verses 13 – 17)
The flow of grace and power – the Creator who loved humanity so much that Jesus was sent, and Jesus taught in real-time ways what the Creator was like, and then the Holy Spirit was sent to be a reminder through time and generations of what the Creator and Jesus Christ the Redeemer were about. This is why I and others believe in a triune Divine.
“I have said these things to you while I am still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you.
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.” (Verses 25 – 27)
I was thinking recently about the places that scripture said Jesus opened up the scriptures and helped the disciples to understand it. And I was reminded how my seminary professors did the same; and that their professors taught them. Stretching back generation upon generation there have been teachers and students. My hope is that that like stretches back to the original disciples/apostles. And it humbles me more than I can say or write that I might in some small way stand in the line of teachers and students. But let me tuck that thought away, and return to my theme – that under the title that I use “The Divine” dwells all the aspects of the Lord God as that God-self is understood by all believers. Shalom and Selah!

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

Day of Pentecost, 2019 Year C : Epistle Passage – All of us coming together under the Divine

“For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.” (Romans 8:14)
Who or what is the Spirit of God? What or who came down at Pentecost? If we believe absolutely that it was the Holy Presence that came from the Lord God the Divine, then we have to live in harmony with those who profess authentic belief in the Lord God the Divine. Now, can we judge who is an authentic Christian? That is, whose belief in authentic? We may claim we are able to according to what Paul would call fruits of the Spirit. But who quantifies those qualities? Seems to me if we claim the right to judge, we are on awfully shaky ground.
“For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption.” (Verse 15a)
The fear that verse 15a talks about is not fear of anyone but being subject to the strict Jewish laws that threatened to condemn at every turn. Instead the believer is a beloved child of the Lord God, and will be welcomed back each time he/she goes astray.
“When we cry, “Abba! Father!” it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ–if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.” (Verses 15b – 17)
I wish, I dearly wish that I could say this adoption covers all of humanity; the Lord God would like it to cover all of humanity, for that is who Jesus Christ was sent for. If we could discern the soul of each person precisely, and know whether or not they profess to be a child of God – or whether at some point in their life they will come to be a child of God – would could say “aye” or “nay” whether they should be accepted and treated by us as a member in good standing in the family of the Lord God. As for me? I would rather treat them, all of humanity, as a part of the family of the Lord God then to dismiss them and incur the rather of the Divine Parent who desires all to be gathered under the Protection and Benevolence of the Divine. Selah!

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

Day of Pentecost, 2019 Year C : Substituted Acts Passage – Trying to come together

“When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting.
Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.” (Acts 2:1 – 4)
We forget, beloved reader, that one of the aspects of Pentecost was gifting of languages that connected people. While the Holy Spirit come to rest upon them, it was to the discerning and divining of theologies and philosophies but a bringing together of languages. And it caught the attention of people who were gathered there.
“Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs–in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.” (Verses 5 – 11)
The Genesis passage that is cited for this day talks about the possible dividing and diversifying of languages. While the reason that this was done by the Divine may be difficult to understand, here and now with the coming of the Holy Spirit the rift in languages is temporarily erased.
“And the LORD said, “Look, they are one people, and they have all one language; and this is only the beginning of what they will do; nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. Come, let us go down, and confuse their language there, so that they will not understand one another’s speech.” So the LORD scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. Therefore it was called Babel, because there the LORD confused the language of all the earth; and from there the LORD scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth.” (Genesis 11:6 – 9)
If I was to champion the cause of the Divine in this event, I would say (and do say) that while the feat of building a tower that reached the skies would have been tremendous, it was only one building for one purpose and did not advance the lives and livelihoods of the people gathered there. But when the large group was divided and set off on various paths, they ultimately accomplished more and greater things than they would have as on group. And it set the stage for a more momentous event than those early builders could have ever imagined.

“All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” But others sneered and said, “They are filled with new wine.” But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, “Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel: ‘In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy. And I will show portents in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and smoky mist. The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day. Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’” (Acts chapter 2, Verses 12 – 21)

That it was momentous does not mean it was clear and understandable. In fact, based on Peter’s oration to the crowd, there emerges some continuing confusion. That is, confusion to our modern understanding. We know from our own existence and hind sight that the days following Pentecost were not the last days. Yes, the Spirit was poured out over all people. Do not let statement be given a shred less importance, beloved reader – ALL PEOPLE! It is the timing and the portents that come under questioning. As I have said on other occasions, whatever has happened over the years that seems like signs . . . “in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and smoky mist. The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood” . . . was not the sign of “the Lord’s great and glorious day.” We are still waiting for that. In fact (again), we may be at the “Babel” of our modern times. The factions and divisions we see in humanity, while breaking down compassion and caring as exemplified by Jesus Christ, are scattering us one from another and causing great confusion. Why? I do not know that beloved reader. What I do know is when we hear the common speech of authentic Christianity from people and places that we do not expect it from, we sit up and take notice.
After Pentecost we enter into “Ordinary Time” – a time where we live out ordinary days and hone our Christian living skills until the next Holy Days of the Church come along. May we in that time discern what the Lord God the Divine is doing in our lives, and may we listening with sensitive ears for the messages that come to us. Selah!

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

Seventh Sunday of Easter: The Psalm Passage – The Diversity of the Divine [in scripture, comments & pictures]

“The LORD is king! Let the earth rejoice; let the many coastlands be glad!

Clouds and thick darkness are all around him; righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne.

Fire goes before him, and consumes his adversaries on every side.”

[The psalms contain paradoxes that are best understood when seeing visuals. These three pictures, I think, perfectly suit each verse. But as you can see, the images show different aspects of nature. Is this because nature and the attributes of nature are so diverse? Or because the Divine is so diverse? Perhaps, beloved reader it is both. ]
“His lightnings light up the world; the earth sees and trembles.
The mountains melt like wax before the LORD, before the Lord of all the earth.
The heavens proclaim his righteousness; and all the peoples behold his glory.”
[I could find visuals for each of these verses; I am sure in your mind’s eye you can envision images too. The diversity of the Lord is found in nature. But, beloved reader, it is also within humanity. Not, however, the dark and wicked part of humanity. That comes from the evil one, and whose influence threatens our relationship with the Divine and each other. ]

“All worshipers of images are put to shame,
those who make their boast in worthless idols;
all gods bow down before him.”
 
 
“Zion hears and is glad, and the towns of Judah rejoice, because of your judgments, O God.
For you, O LORD, are most high over all the earth; you are exalted far above all gods.
The LORD loves those who hate evil; he guards the lives of his faithful;
he rescues them from the hand of the wicked.”

 
 
“Light dawns for the righteous, and joy for the upright in heart.
Rejoice in the LORD, O you righteous, and give thanks to his holy name! (Psalm 97)

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth, Year C 2019: The Gospel, Old Testament, and Psalm Passages – In Praise of Godly Women

“In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.” (Luke 1:39 – 45)
It is a tenet of the New Testament that older women are to teach the younger women what is good and proper. Although I am not sure they (meaning the proponents of this type of teaching) had in mind blessing each other, giving forth praise for what is happening to them, and passing on teachings of theology! It is a type of revolutionary action that I like though!
“And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.
His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.” (Verses 46 – 55)
And imagine what Elizabeth might have been teaching Mary while she was there. No not fret however, beloved reader – as if you were/would! The Lord God the Divine I am sure intended Mary to learn how to raise a Godly man from Elizabeth who herself was the wife of a high priest and raised John to the John the Baptist.
“And Mary remained with her about three months and then returned to her home. Now the time came for Elizabeth to give birth, and she bore a son.” (Verses 56 – 57)
And there is, beloved reader, precedent for Godly women to be the inspiration for Godly men – not only in raising them but in teaching them. Let us listen to Hannah.
“Hannah prayed and said, “My heart exults in the LORD; my strength is exalted in my God. My mouth derides my enemies, because I rejoice in my victory. “There is no Holy One like the LORD, no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God. Talk no more so very proudly, let not arrogance come from your mouth; for the LORD is a God of knowledge, and by him actions are weighed. The bows of the mighty are broken, but the feeble gird on strength. Those who were full have hired themselves out for bread, but those who were hungry are fat with spoil. The barren has borne seven, but she who has many children is forlorn. The LORD kills and brings to life; he brings down to Sheol and raises up. The LORD makes poor and makes rich; he brings low, he also exalts. He raises up the poor from the dust; he lifts the needy from the ash heap, to make them sit with princes and inherit a seat of honor. For the pillars of the earth are the Lord’s, and on them he has set the world.
“He will guard the feet of his faithful ones, but the wicked shall be cut off in darkness; for not by might does one prevail. The LORD! His adversaries shall be shattered; the Most High will thunder in heaven. The LORD will judge the ends of the earth; he will give strength to his king, and exalt the power of his anointed.” (1 Samuel 2:1-10)
So let us celebrate these women and their accomplishments. They have proved themselves worthy of the place in scripture. And let us praise the Lord also who has called people of all genders, times, and geographies to be in service of the Divine, moving forward the Lord God’s plan for humanity.
“Praise the LORD! Praise, O servants of the LORD; praise the name of the LORD.
Blessed be the name of the LORD from this time on and forevermore.
From the rising of the sun to its setting the name of the LORD is to be praised.
The LORD is high above all nations, and his glory above the heavens.
Who is like the LORD our God, who is seated on high, who looks far down on the heavens and the earth?
He raises the poor from the dust, and lifts the needy from the ash heap, to make them sit with princes, with the princes of his people.
He gives the barren woman a home, making her the joyous mother of children. Praise the LORD!” (Psalm 113)
 

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

Ascension of the Lord, Year C 2019: The Gospel, Substituted Acts, & Psalm Passages – The Divine as the Divine always was and always will be

“Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you–that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.” (Luke 24:44 – 48)
I have heard the word “Bible” presented as an acronym “Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth”, and it has stayed in my memory. The reasons I remember it is because it uses each letter, and I was amazed that such a complicated collection of writings can be called “basic.” There is really nothing basic about it! And in a way it does a disservice to the disciples (who even after living with Jesus for his entire ministry had to have their minds “opened”), and the hundreds of male and female commentators and theologians who have wrestled with the holy word. The message of Jesus Christ, beloved reader, is a simple statement to love the Lord God the Divine who sent Jesus Christ, to believe in the Lord God the Divine, and to follow that guidance, direction and example that was set out in Jesus Christ. Yes, that is basic. But the way the books in the Old Testament come together to support Christ’s ministry and under gird it, and the way the Old and New Testament are to be understood and intertwined – that is complicated!
“And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and, lifting up his hands, he blessed them. While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven. And they worshiped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy; and they were continually in the temple blessing God.” (Verses 49 – 53)
The ascension of the Lord was the first part of what was to come. The physical presence of Jesus Christ returned to the Divine, and the spiritual/Spirit Presence of the Divine was then able to come to earth. The reason why it had to be this way is probably one of the “complicated” issues that humanity has found to be far from “basic”!
“In the first book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus did and taught from the beginning until the day when he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. After his suffering he presented himself alive to them by many convincing proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. While staying with them, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for the promise of the Father. “This,” he said, “is what you have heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” (Acts 1:1 – 5)
Some days back I had written about the switch in narrative perspective that we find in Acts – around the time that Paul was called to Macedonia. I mention this because the writer of the gospel of Luke (which we read just above) and the writer of the book of Acts are thought to be the same person. I find delight that the RCL pairs these two passages together. On to the balance of the passage.
“So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” He replied, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.” (Verses 6 – 9)
And interesting question – does the coming of the Holy Spirit signify that the time of Jewish tribulation is coming to an end? A parallel thought for us might be – does our coming to faith & the blessing of the Holy Spirit mean the end of difficulties in our lives? I think, beloved reader, we know the answer to that. As did the disciples discover when their ministry begain. The end of one thing, but the beginning of quite another.
Interesting too that this account in Acts has something added to Jesus Christ’s ascension.
“While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. They said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” (Verses 10 – 11)
What do we make of that? What can we make of that? And most importantly, what have the generations since Christ’s ascension made of that??
“Clap your hands, all you peoples; shout to God with loud songs of joy.
For the LORD, the Most High, is awesome, a great king over all the earth.
He subdued peoples under us, and nations under our feet.
He chose our heritage for us, the pride of Jacob whom he loves. Selah” (Psalm 47:1 – 4)
I made note earlier/above concerning the intertwining of the writing of the Old Testament – that is, Jesus spoke of the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms being fulfilled. The implication is that they were fulfilled through him, or he is the fulfillment, or they point to Jesus and how he will reign – or something like that. It is complicated. My point is that the psalm passages are written quite often from a Jewish perspective. And that perspective, I think, is quite evident when keeping in my the disciples asking if “the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel” is close at hand. But there is also an openness to the psalms that allows both earlier and modern believers to enter into the songs of praise.
“God has gone up with a shout, the LORD with the sound of a trumpet.
Sing praises to God, sing praises; sing praises to our King, sing praises.
For God is the king of all the earth; sing praises with a psalm.
God is king over the nations; God sits on his holy throne.
The princes of the peoples gather as the people of the God of Abraham. For the shields of the earth belong to God; he is highly exalted.” (Verses 5 – 9)
In all of this – and we have covered much ground, concepts, and theologies – I want to remind you beloved reader that at the ascension Jesus Christ and the Divine hold the same traits and intent that they did when Jesus Christ first came to earth. One of the hallmarks of the Divine is consistency. And one of the struggles of humanity is to understand that. May the Spirit who came when Jesus ascended teach and inspire you to greater understanding. Selah!

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

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