Category: Biblical Studies

Season After Pentecost (Proper 24[29]) – The Gospel Passage: Undertaking the ways of the Lord God Jesus Christ

“James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came forward to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” And he said to them, “What is it you want me to do for you?” And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” ( Mark 10:35 – 37)
I can imagine Jesus slightly taken aback by the disciples’ statement, wondering just what was it they thought Jesus should do for them. Now Jesus would do ANYTHING for them as long as it was in their best interests. And I imagine maybe he was a little amused. But mostly wanting to set them straight.
“But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” They replied, “We are able.” Then Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink; and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized; but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.” (Verses 38 – 40)
There was a time I thought long and hard about who would sit at Jesus’ right hand or left hand. Especially when it is also said that Jesus sits at the right hand of God, which means that one of Jesus’ sides is already taken, unless Jesus and God are the same Deity in which case James and John just asked to be seated beside the Lord God the Divine. And if there is only one right hand of the Divine and one left hand of the Divine that means that out of all human existence only two people would be the ones “prepared.” AND considering what that “preparation” might entail, I am not sure that there would be only two people out of all of human existence that would be worthy.
“When the ten heard this, they began to be angry with James and John.” (Verse 41)
If this situation were not bizarre enough, the other ten got peeved because they thought James and John were “budging” in line and they – meaning the other ten – should also be in contention for this honor. However, beloved reader, do not let this have you think less of the disciples. Between this point and Jesus ascending into heaven, the disciples got a crash course in what it means to be followers of the Divine. And that some honors come with too high a price tag.
“So Jesus called them and said to them, “You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.” (Verses 42 – 45)
You know, beloved reader, I really have to think and believe that Jesus Christ would not seek to be seated at the right hand or the left hand side of himself – if that was the honor. What I mean is that Jesus did not seek honors or prestige. He IS honored and glorified because he is Divine from the Lord God. But that was not Jesus’ agenda when he was on the earth. Jesus the SERVANT King – not a king that demands to be at the head of the line, but someone who is content to be at the every end of the line making sure that everyone else has what he or she needs for this life and the life to come. And furthermore, those two people who are seated to the right and left of Jesus will probably be the two people that everyone else thinks is lest likely to be there. I for one am looking forward to seeing which two lest likely people they are. Selah!

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

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Season After Pentecost (Proper 24[29]) – The Epistles Passage: Understanding the ways of High Priests

[Somehow I did a cut and paste of the incorrect Epistle passage last week. And now I am faced with writing something “quick fast” so it is ready to post posthaste. It reminds me of the days in college, and once in a while in seminary, that I had a paper due and needed to somehow complete in a short amount of time. I actually write quite well under pressure. But I have not had to for a good many years! So here I go! ]
“Every high priest chosen from among mortals is put in charge of things pertaining to God on their behalf, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. He is able to deal gently with the ignorant and wayward, since he himself is subject to weakness; and because of this he must offer sacrifice for his own sins as well as for those of the people.” (Hebrews 5:1 – 3)
What strikes me here is the human-ness of the high priests. Sometimes the high priests are as fallible as the people they serve and sacrifice for. I am reminded of Eli who Samuel reminded what it was like to be called by the Lord God. And Samuel himself who thought that a king appointed by the Lord God would like strong and “kingly.” John the Baptist’s father, Zechariah, who was struck numb when he doubted that he would have a son. And then there were the high priests of Jesus’ time who cared more for politics than faith. Paul seems to have a kinder view of high priests. In our own time there have been good ministers and not so good ministers. So we know what Paul is talking about.
“And one does not presume to take this honor, but takes it only when called by God, just as Aaron was.” (Verse 4)
That could be why some of the high priests who presided over the Hebrews were hit and miss – many times such an honor was passed down through family lines and not an individual calling by the Lord God the Divine.
“So also Christ did not glorify himself in becoming a high priest, but was appointed by the one who said to him, “You are my Son, today I have begotten you”; as he says also in another place, “You are a priest forever, according to the order of Melchizedek.” In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.” (Verses 5 – 7)
Not, Paul seems to being saying, because he was the Son of God but because he comported himself as a child of God. We can do that too, beloved reader!
“Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered; and having been made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him, having been designated by God a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek.” (Verses 8 – 10)
Next week the Epistle passage speaks to the proofs of Jesus Christ being the perfect High Priest. I should know, because as I said earlier, I cut and pasted the wrong passage and ended up writing on next week’s Epistle passage instead of the one for this week. I am still trying to figure how that happened and feel a little loopy having set down such a strong case for Jesus as the perfect High Priest, and now having to back track to an earlier point in Paul’s argument. Knowing where he is heading, it is challenging to write the prequel! I guess it just goes to prove Paul’s point – human-ness can be a heavy load to bear, and allowances should be made! Selah!

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

The Point of the Book of Job

The point of the book of Job is to teach us that the mystery of evil is a mystery of a war-torn and unfathomably complex creation, not the mystery of God’s all-controlling will. Given how Christians are yet inclined to look for a divine reason behind catastrophes and personal tragedies, ...
The post The Point of the Book of Job appeared first on Greg Boyd - ReKnew.

Syndicated from Greg Boyd – ReKnew

Season After Pentecost (Proper 24[29]) – The Old Testament Passage: Discerning the ways of the Lord God

“Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind: “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Gird up your loins like a man, I will question you, and you shall declare to me. “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements–surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone when the morning stars sang together and all the heavenly beings shouted for joy?” (Job 38:1-7)
It would seem that by the time Job has suffered from loss and illness, poor counsel from some of his friends, and words of instruction from someone younger than him – Job is a mess. He has gotten himself convinced that he has been wronged by God and that God has without good cause subjected him to abuse. God speaks out of the storm to set him straight, and to found out how he/Job became so knowledgeable about Divine things.
“Can you lift up your voice to the clouds, so that a flood of waters may cover you? Can you send forth lightnings, so that they may go and say to you, ‘Here we are’? Who has put wisdom in the inward parts, or given understanding to the mind? Who has the wisdom to number the clouds? Or who can tilt the waterskins of the heavens, when the dust runs into a mass and the clods cling together? “Can you hunt the prey for the lion, or satisfy the appetite of the young lions, when they crouch in their dens, or lie in wait in their covert? Who provides for the raven its prey, when its young ones cry to God, and wander about for lack of food?” (Verses 34 – 41)
It perplexes me though, if the Lord God gave Satan permission to do all this to Job, why was the Lord God so surprised that Job would feel God has picked up the Divine? Now granted that Job did not know why he had been so abused, did not know that the Divine was holding up Job as an exampled of devotion and godly behavior. But Job did believe that all things come from the Lord and are moved and motivated by the Lord. The book of Job can be a perplexing one. I first remember reading Job when I was working my first job as a nanny and housekeeper for found children under the age of 6 – two of them being 4 month old infants. It seemed apropos at the time to read a book about struggling under overwhelming odds when I was struggling myself.
The aspect of the Lord God in the book of Job seems to be a very human one – bragging about a believer and being defensive about slights, not to mention other less than stellar behavior. The Lord God, the Divine, is right to question Job when Job questions the Lord. But this aspect of the Lord God is not one that invites and seems open to comforting those who struggle and are oppressed. At the time when I first read it as a young adult, I think I read it because I felt much akin to Job. But I much prefer the Lord God that is presented in the other Old Testament passage.

“Surely he has borne our infirmities and carried our diseases; yet we accounted him stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his bruises we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have all turned to our own way, and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. By a perversion of justice he was taken away. Who could have imagined his future? For he was cut off from the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people. They made his grave with the wicked and his tomb with the rich, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth. Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him with pain. When you make his life an offering for sin, he shall see his offspring, and shall prolong his days; through him the will of the LORD shall prosper. Out of his anguish he shall see light; he shall find satisfaction through his knowledge. The righteous one, my servant, shall make many righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore I will allot him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he poured out himself to death, and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.” (Isaiah 53:4-12)
In the Job passage the Lord God is peeved (again, can the Divine really be peeved?) that the God-self’s might and will is being questioned. In the Isaiah passage, there is illness, abuse, and oppression – but it is heaped upon an “unnamed person” who has taken upon himself the burden of sin and transgression. We assume this unnamed person is the Messiah, and the prophecy is not far wrong from what actually happened. And that the Lord God and the Messiah had planned that the Messiah would be the salvation of humanity. Two very different views of the Divine. That is not to say they are mutually exclusive. And the aspect of the Lord God shown in Job may not be the complete understanding of the Lord. But all we have in scripture and the guidance of the Spirit to reveal the Lord God, the Divine, to us. As the week unfolds let us see what other views of the Lord God are presented to us. Selah!

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

Season After Pentecost (Proper 23[28]) – The Psalms Passage: Crying out to the Lord God in sickness and fear – A Preacher and Seeker recitation

Seeker: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer; and by night, but find no rest.”
Preacher: Our Lord God has not forsaken us, not by any means! The despair of our days and the loneliness of nights is but a reflection of our own fears. If we could but see as the Lord sees, that hope and comfort is close at hand, we could dry our tears and calm our fears.
Seeker: “Yet you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel. In you our ancestors trusted; they trusted, and you delivered them. To you they cried, and were saved; in you they trusted, and were not put to shame.”
Preacher: Yes, the Presence of the Lord is steady and sure. Our spiritual forebearers knew that even the bleakest times could be turned around by the Lord. And that the strength of the Lord can course through us.
Seeker: “But I am a worm, and not human; scorned by others, and despised by the people. All who see me mock at me; they make mouths at me, they shake their heads; . . “
Preacher: Do not let those scoffers and naysayers shake your faith. Yes, they mock you with their “Commit your cause to the LORD; let him deliver– let him rescue the one in whom he delights!” But the Divine DOES delight in you and WILL rescue you. It is their lack of belief that will cause them to tremble and fear in times to come.
Seeker: “Yet it was you who took me from the womb; you kept me safe on my mother’s breast. On you I was cast from my birth, and since my mother bore me you have been my God. Do not be far from me, for trouble is near and there is no one to help.”
Preacher: Do you believe that the Lord will safe you? Have you truly put your faith in the Lord? Are you blinded by your own fears and trapped by your own human shortcomings?
Seeker: “Many bulls encircle me, strong bulls of Bashan surround me; they open wide their mouths at me, like a ravening and roaring lion. I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast; my mouth is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws; you lay me in the dust of death.” (Psalm 22:1-15)
Preacher: Seeker, learn to say, “So teach us to count our days that we may gain a wise heart.” You fear many things. They rise up like specters in the dark, and haunt your days. You are like Job, who is for a time afflicted, but had let human fears and the whisperings of others convince him that his cause was lost.
Seeker: I cry out, “Turn, O LORD! How long? Have compassion on your servants!
Preacher: Seeker, your prayer should also be, “Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, so that we may rejoice and be glad all our days. Make us glad as many days as you have afflicted us, and as many years as we have seen evil. Let your work be manifest to your servants, and your glorious power to their children. Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and prosper for us the work of our hands– O prosper the work of our hands!” (Psalm 90:12-17)
Seeker: It is hard to pray when my hands tremble with fear. It is hard to pray when my body trembles with illness. How do I pray in such times? How can I draw my faith around me?
Preacher: The Lord God, the Divine, has not left us alone. A Comforter has been sent to us and the Holy Presence surrounds us. If you can not pray because of fear and illness, let the Holy Presence that is sent from the throne of the Lord pray for you. The Divine, the Lord God, has compassion for you and does not wish you to be afraid. This life has great peril and great illness. But these things cannot withstand or overturn the power of the Lord. Your Lord God holds your trembling self in the Divine hand. This is what Job learned, and what you can learn too. Just a little bit of faith can turn the tide. All things will be well in the end through the grace and peace of the Lord God. Shalom!

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

Season After Pentecost (Proper 23[28]) – The Gospel Passage: When the path of our lives need to change, up to and including our health and well-being

“As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone.” (Mark 10:17 – 18)
Eternal life – in one respect that almost sounds like a life without illness. I know, I know . . . . I am pressing the point because it fits with my theme of this week. And I have to admit the Gospel passage does not seem to fit well in the parameters of illness. Not even if we talk about sin as an illness. What then might this young man be yearning after?
“You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; You shall not defraud; Honor your father and mother.’ He said to him, “Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth.”” (Verse 19 – 20)
The young man is stating (I may go as far as saying he is “proclaiming) that he is “good” – maybe not the Divine type of good. But he is a man who has lived a morally upright life according to the Jewish/Ten Commandments.
“Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions.” (Verses 21 – 22)
If we can stretch the boundaries and say some types of sins are an illness, it is a lessor stretch to say the train of avarice and affluence is also an illness. NOT that it is an illness to have wealth and resources, but that the desire and characteristic to continue accumulating wealth and possession beyond your life’s need can be.
“Then Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” And the disciples were perplexed at these words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” (Verses 23 – 25)
One understanding of this passage says that Jesus meant not the eye of a sewing needle but the narrow passage way into Jerusalem. A camel, it is said, could only pass through it if it hunched down and had not cargo on its back. In other words, in order to enter into the kingdom of God you need to be stripped down to only the barest of essentials – say perhaps one’s soul/spirit and belief in the Divine.
“They were greatly astounded and said to one another, “Then who can be saved?” (Verse 26)
Again, I have heard this statement explained as such; the disciples’ understanding of life was that those who are rich have been blessed by God, and being blessed by God surely means you would have easy entry to heaven.
“Jesus looked at them and said, “For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.” (Verse 27)
Jesus directs the understanding towards this truth – earthly actions and abilities will not win you entry into heaven nor the kingdom of God. At other points Jesus talks about the need to believe in him as the Messiah and the Lord God as the sender of Jesus. But here this point is not dwelt upon. However, the writer of the gospel of Mark has more to relate about this incident. And I suspect will take us in a new direction and lead us to new considerations.
“Peter began to say to him, “Look, we have left everything and followed you.” Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields, for my sake and for the sake of the good news, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this age–houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and fields with persecutions–and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.” (Verses 28 – 31)
Peter, being Peter, is very blunt and point blank. He says that the disciples have nothing to their name, no possessions or resources stored up. They have given up everything that was in their lives in order to follow Jesus. And now Jesus is telling them that there may be no provision for them in the days to come?!
Let me tell you a brief story, a story from my past, and perhaps help you understand my perspective on the themes I have been referring to this week. In 2005 I had graduated from seminary one year ago, and I was looking at finding a ministerial position. There were several possibilities and I was testing out where I might best find a church or ministry to join. My husband, however, had gotten a job offer from a university out west and it was a very good position for him. And we both felt it was the right thing for him and our family. So instead of finding a position in the area where I had gone to seminary and was known, we moved out to Oregon where I knew no one and had not base or foundation to be involved in any type of ministry. I wondered what would ever become of me and my calling to the ministry. I have up everything, and had to trust that the Lord would open up a way for me. It was a great step of faith for me. But that move forced me out of my “comfort zone” and possibilities opened up beyond what I could ever imagine. And as the years went on and things developed in my life, I realized that this move was the best thing that could have happened.
The disciples could not see much into the future – much as I could not. But I stepped out in faith. Jesus is telling the disciples to step out in faith also, and that faith would be rewarded a hundredfold. Now, let me add one more aspect to my story. Soon after our move out west, my health started to take a downward turn. It turns out I could not have continued in ministry the way I thought I would. The path that was set before me by the Lord was a much better path than the one I thought I should be on. And my ill health has actually opened up doors to ministering to people that I would have never found otherwise. And it is my firm belief that it will continue to.
Illness and health – these terms are really very relative to the situation we are in. Did the rich young man have the affliction of affluence – unhealthy attachment to things? Did the disciples put more belief in the security of resources and stability than in their faith in Jesus? Did some the Jews during Jesus’ lifetime put more energy and effort in the political and social life than in their faith life? And what about Job and his friends – did they measure their holiness and “goodness” by their health and position in their society? Furthermore, does our current modern life do any of these same things? Finally, beloved reader, are you reluctant to step out and try new things, release your hold on possessions and security, and answer new callings because you are not sure how it will turn out? These are challenging things to ponder, but pondering them is a very important step in our faith life. Shalom as you ponder!

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

Season After Pentecost (Proper 23[28]) – The Epistle Passage: The gospel according to Paul in the book of Hebrews, from a medical/theological standpoint

“Indeed, the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12)
Yesterday I floated the idea that sinfulness might be seen as a type of illness – perhaps the type of illness that Amos the prophet saw in some of the Jewish people of his time. Or the type of illness that Job’s friends thought he had – a punishment for not living a holy and Godly enough life. Paul, being a Jew, saw a divide between the soul – that is the body life and existence – from the spirit – the immortal and everlasting which remains after physical death and which we define as soul. Illness would directly impact the Jewish concept of soul, the living force that makes our body function. To a lessor extent illness might affect the spirit, what Jesus came to save through his crucifixion. Sin would more directly affect the spirit as the Jews would see it, but they also believed that sin could affect the soul, that is the physical body. It is much easier in our modern times when we believe the body and soul are vitally connected. However, that makes the “word of God” much sharper than even as Paul presents it. Paul continues.
“And before him no creature is hidden, but all are naked and laid bare to the eyes of the one to whom we must render an account.” (Verse 13)
When we talk about the physical body and illness, we are placing our understanding of how our brain – our intellect – affects our body. Paul may not have had that nuanced understanding. However, his statement still holds true; the Divine does see all the connections and interconnections of our total body and the God-breathed-in life force that continues after our body ceases. And what ever your understanding, beloved reader, of the body/soul/spirit, each of us must account for how and what we did with all that we are. [The verses that follow seem to move us away from the discussion of sinfulness and illness, but let us seen where it might pop up.]
“Since, then, we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Verses 14 – 16)
Did Jesus ever get physically ill? We know Jesus never sinned; but did his body come down with a fever? Did he ever get a headache? Did he ever have an upset stomach? We are not told. We ARE told that Jesus was tested as we are. And if physical illness tests us, might it have tested Jesus?
Maybe my tenacity in trying to hold to the theme I started the week with is leading me down thought paths that seem new and unique. Or maybe my own health struggles are providing me with a different type of lens to see scripture. All I know is that I am coming up with more ponderings than sureties. Paul assumes that our needs are to do with not sinning and living faithfully. But the human experience is more than that. Our bodies provide us with temptations and weaknesses, and Paul would readily agree to that. But we cannot always control what our body does – how it reacts to a contagion or illness. What we do when the human body is ill and not under our psyche’s control. Jesus, during his ministry on earth, healed the people who he encountered that were ill – especially when the illness resulted in deviate behavior. So if “ no creature is hidden, but all are naked and laid bare” to the eyes of the Divine, that might not necessarily be a scary thing. I love believing that the Divine sees my illnesses and has mercy on me, forgiving me where my weaknesses have left me vulnerable. It is a hope that I know others who are gravely ill hope for. And I do not see the Divine withholding that from us. Selah!

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

Season After Pentecost (Proper 23[28]) – The Old Testament Passages: Sickness of body and spirit, and the interactions & results

At a certain point in the story of Job, several (three to be exact) acquaintances of Job came by to check in on him and give him their “sage” advice; although Job does not receive it very well. If it is hard to know what to say in the face of another’s suffering, two of these “friends” illustrate that very well. Biblical commentators could probably say more clearly what was wrong and distorted about their advice. The third friend, the youngest of the three, seems to have a better handle on Job’s situation. This is Job’s response to one of the two friends’ attempted words of comfort.
“Then Job answered:
“Today also my complaint is bitter; his hand is heavy despite my groaning. Oh, that I knew where I might find him, that I might come even to his dwelling! I would lay my case before him, and fill my mouth with arguments. I would learn what he would answer me, and understand what he would say to me. Would he contend with me in the greatness of his power? No; but he would give heed to me. There an upright person could reason with him, and I should be acquitted forever by my judge. “If I go forward, he is not there; or backward, I cannot perceive him; on the left he hides, and I cannot behold him; I turn to the right, but I cannot see him.” (Job 23:1-9)
When I think about Job’s two friends and their visit to him, it occurs to me it is like visiting someone in the who is very ill and speaking not to their physical ailment and suffering but giving “goodly/Godly” advice that would make the ill person instantly better if they would only follow the advise.
“God has made my heart faint; the Almighty has terrified me; If only I could vanish in darkness, and thick darkness would cover my face!” (Verses 16 – 17)
But to my way of thinking, Job does not need advice but recognition of his situation and illness.
The other Old Testament passage is a section from the book of the prophet Amos. Prophets, amongst other things, gave advice . . . . and warnings. It is interesting to think about sinfulness as being an illness that prevents one from being in relationship to God. I wonder if we thought about sin as an illness, would the words of the prophet be as welcome?
“Seek the LORD and live, or he will break out against the house of Joseph like fire, and it will devour Bethel, with no one to quench it. Ah, you that turn justice to wormwood, and bring righteousness to the ground! . . . . They hate the one who reproves in the gate, and they abhor the one who speaks the truth. Therefore because you trample on the poor and take from them levies of grain, you have built houses of hewn stone, but you shall not live in them; you have planted pleasant vineyards, but you shall not drink their wine. For I know how many are your transgressions, and how great are your sins– you who afflict the righteous, who take a bribe, and push aside the needy in the gate. Therefore the prudent will keep silent in such a time; for it is an evil time.” (Amos 5:6 – 7, 10 – 13)
The sin that Amos is speaking of is the actions of those who are higher up in society or more established and affluent in their circumstances. Do you think, beloved reader, that the selfish and callous actions of other is the result of some illness or deficiency in one’s being? Well, actually, if it is I don’t there is any medication or medical treatment that will cure such things.
“Seek good and not evil, that you may live; and so the LORD, the God of hosts, will be with you, just as you have said. Hate evil and love good, and establish justice in the gate; it may be that the LORD, the God of hosts, will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph.” (Verses 14 – 15)
Illness of the heart and soul – that what it is. The inability to sustain compassion, and the deficiency of caring. Job was not afflicted in this way, but may-hap his so-called friends were. Job’s friends might well have seen Job’s illness as a manifestation of the “sickness” of his inner spirit. (Again, biblical commentators might have a better grasp on understanding Job’s friends and their comments.) According to Amos’ assessment Job should be a well and healthy man. And if you skip ahead in Job’s story you will find out that health and well-being was returned to him.
On of the things that Job says is that he feels God has abandoned him – “If I go forward, he is not there; or backward, I cannot perceive him; on the left he hides, and I cannot behold him; I turn to the right, but I cannot see him” Job said. Amos says live well and the God of hosts will be with you. It may take a week to reconcile these two perspectives. Shalom!

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

Season After Pentecost (Canadian Thanksgiving) – All the scripture passages, and my thoughts on them

“Do not fear, O soil; be glad and rejoice, for the LORD has done great things!
Do not fear, you animals of the field, for the pastures of the wilderness are green; the tree bears its fruit, the fig tree and vine give their full yield.
O children of Zion, be glad and rejoice in the LORD your God; for he has given the early rain for your vindication, he has poured down for you abundant rain, the early and the later rain, as before.” (Joel 2:21 – 23)
When I was growing up, just when I thought school days had taken over my entire life, Thanksgiving came. NOT at the end of November when Christmas exams and papers were looming but early in October when the weather was still temperate and the leaves were still a rich feast of color. The Thanksgivings of my youth were wondrous times when aunts, uncles, cousins and all manner of family relations got together to celebrate a successful season of harvest. Although most of the harvesting was done in the grocery store. One of my aunts did have a garden and there was produce from that on the groaning table. But mostly it was the harvesting of good cooking. I felt sorry for our neighbors to the south who had to wait more than a month to share good eating with family and friends. One of the hardest adjustments when I came down to the states for college and then became a permanent resident was waiting for Thanksgiving until all the way into November.
“The threshing floors shall be full of grain, the vats shall overflow with wine and oil. I will repay you for the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter, my great army, which I sent against you. You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, and praise the name of the LORD your God, who has dealt wondrously with you. And my people shall never again be put to shame. You shall know that I am in the midst of Israel, and that I, the LORD, am your God and there is no other. And my people shall never again be put to shame.” (Verses 24 – 27)
For many years after my marriage we celebrated Thanksgiving with my husband’s family. Sometimes if school schedules allowed we went up to Ontario for Canadian Thanksgiving. Those were good years of double Thanksgiving!
When we moved out to Oregon that meant for the first time we were on our own for Thanksgiving. By then I had enough cooking experience under my belt to do a Thanksgiving correctly all the trimmings. The first year however the budget was tight and I stretched the dollars as far as I could, and even further. But each year that passed it was easier to make a Thanksgiving that was full and bounteous. Now we savor our intimate Thanksgivings together.
“When the LORD restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream.
Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy; then it was said among the nations, “The LORD has done great things for them.”
The LORD has done great things for us, and we rejoiced.” (Psalms 126:1 – 3)
Last year Thanksgiving it was almost reminiscent of leaner times. I had been unemployed since March of 2017 and groceries funds were at a low. My mother generously helped out and my son had gotten a job in September so he pitched in. And just before Thanksgiving I got hired, so I knew that money would be coming in again. We pinched pennies a little and modified the abundance, but a good time was had by all.
“Restore our fortunes, O LORD, like the watercourses in the Negeb.
May those who sow in tears reap with shouts of joy.
Those who go out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, carrying their sheaves.” (Verses 3 – 6)
This Thanksgiving promises to be a great one – my income it better than before and we have much to thankful and grateful for.
“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, for kings and all who are in high positions, so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity. This is right and is acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God; there is also one mediator between God and humankind, Christ Jesus, himself human, who gave himself a ransom for all–this was attested at the right time. For this I was appointed a herald and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.” ( 1 Timothy 2:1-7)
In our current political climate a quiet and peaceable life is not easy to find; this is true in all parts of the world. In the past the United States has been for many a haven of calm and sufficiency. But those days are less common lately, and I grieve for that. As when I was a child, I saw those in the United States having to wait longer than I for Thanksgiving. Now as an adult I see the need that exists and it burdens my heart. Why is it that the days and years past glow more brightly in our memory?
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these.
But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you–you of little faith? Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.” ( Matthew 6:25-32)
Yes beloved reader, the days of my worrying about food or clothing are past. Lean times may come again, but I know we will get through them. I see not only the need for material things in the world, but all things of the heart and soul. In fact I dare to see the needs of the heart and soul in this world are a greater need than the material things. What ever one’s faith tradition the need for a quiet and peaceable life are profound and unending. It is all well and good to say your material needs will be met; but the human body has needs beyond that. And we cannot be sure, beloved reader, that the emotional, psychological and spiritual needs of each person are being meet. The writer of the gospel of Matthew says, “But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Verse 33) But in many instances we, who are followers and profess-ors of the Christian life, need to seek out those in need – all types of needs. Because it is through us that “all these things will be given” to the world.
May you, beloved reader regardless of the time and the season, open your eyes to the needs of other and be open to the calling of the Spirit to fill them. Selah!

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

Season After Pentecost (Proper 22[27]) – The Psalm Passage: Finishing out the week

“Vindicate me, O LORD, for I have walked in my integrity, and I have trusted in the LORD without wavering. Prove me, O LORD, and try me; test my heart and mind. For your steadfast love is before my eyes, and I walk in faithfulness to you.” (Psalm 26:1 – 3)
This is Job’s psalm, that is the psalm that goes with the passage from Job. The Divine Lord God-self declared Job free from sin. And even when the Evil One whipped up all that could be flung at Job, Job did not sin. Even when Job’s own wife and helpmate (consider, beloved reader, that the Evil One could have momentarily “possessed” Job’s wife and turned her against him) dismissed him and tempted him to sin, he resisted.
“I do not sit with the worthless, nor do I consort with hypocrites; I hate the company of evildoers, and will not sit with the wicked. I wash my hands in innocence, and go around your altar, O LORD, singing aloud a song of thanksgiving, and telling all your wondrous deeds.” (Verses 4 – 7)
“I wash my hands in innocence” – I had not before considered that verse and the depth of sinlessness that implies. In Jewish tradition part of the preparation to worship or offer a sacrifice was to wash one’s hands to literally and figuratively cleanse one’s self in order to be worthy of coming before the Divine. If you had no figurative dirt on you, it meant you had never been sullied with sin in the first place.
“O LORD, I love the house in which you dwell, and the place where your glory abides.” (Verse 8)
I had a friend from seminary who used to say that one of my greatest desires was to dwell in the house of the Lord. I think what he meant (because I never out and out asked him) was that I conducted myself in such a way that I would be worthy of living in the House of the Lord. I always think of him and bless him when I read such passages.
“Do not sweep me away with sinners, nor my life with the bloodthirsty, those in whose hands are evil devices, and whose right hands are full of bribes. But as for me, I walk in my integrity; redeem me, and be gracious to me. My foot stands on level ground; in the great congregation I will bless the LORD.” (Verses 9 – 12)
This psalm is not only a declaration of Job’s innocence but a plea for the Divine to help him keep his innocence intact and to keep him from the ways of the sinners. If indeed this was written by King David, the psalm takes on a different complexion. Job, we know, was innocent before God. King David, however, had many missteps in his life. I can imagine that things that David did as king might have horrified the man of God who was David.
King David most likely also wrote psalm that is coupled with the passage from Genesis.
“O LORD, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens. Out of the mouths of babes and infants you have founded a bulwark because of your foes, to silence the enemy and the avenger. 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? Yet you have made them a little lower than God, and crowned them with glory and honor. 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. O LORD, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” (Psalms 8:1 – 9)
In the seesaw struggle of gender inclusiveness and exclusiveness it is hard to discern whether the Hebrew meant humanity or a more focused subset of humanity. The inquiry is germane in light of how women were treated from early in civilization up to and including our modern day society. You did not think, beloved reader, that I remain unaware of the current news in the days that I wrote hits – did you? That once again women are targeted by a “subset” of humanity? Just think and imagine, beloved reader, if each member of humanity regarded every other member of humanity the way the Divine regards each member of humanity? While my focus this week was marital relationships, those relationships have their foundation in how we treat our fellow members of humanity. Consider that, beloved reader, as you praise your Maker. Selah!

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

Season After Pentecost (Proper 22[27]) – The Gospel Passage: Coming to the crux of the marital situation

“Some Pharisees came, and to test him they asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” He answered them, “What did Moses command you?”
They said, “Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of dismissal and to divorce her.” But Jesus said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote this commandment for you.
But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” (Mark 10:2 – 9)
I want you to think back, beloved reader, to the Old Testament passage where we read about Job and his skin condition, and where read about Eve created from a part of Adam’s side. Then consider which image of marriage Jesus’ teaching reflects. Job’s wife apparently had no problem with Job cursing God and dying, if we are to take that statement as a factual reflection of her sentiments. Then there is Adam recognizing Eve as a vital part of himself.
But remember also, beloved reader, that marriages in Job’s time were a simple “renting out” of one’s daughter to a suitable male in one’s town or village. Maybe there was a reason Job’s wife was so callous. Clearly the image that Jesus gives of marriage is not one that the society that Job grew up in practiced. And I venture to say that in Jesus’ time marriage was not as reciprocal either. It must have been a surprise to the people who were listening to Jesus.
“Then in the house the disciples asked him again about this matter. He said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.” (Verses 10 – 12)
When I was growing up, divorce was a pretty “hot” topic. In my faith tradition it was not something that was highly endorsed. It was not condemned, exactly. But it was viewed with suspicion and unease. I learned that first hand because my mother was divorced from my father. And as a young person growing up in the church, it was hard to wrap my young mind around the implication of this verse. I suppose I would have struggled more if it hadn’t have been for the fact that the man my mother remarried was such a strong pillar of my home church that I came to believe these verses had to have a meaning that were not being correctly discerned. I could go on and explain to you how/where my understanding of these verses took me. But I think more telling is what the writer of the book of Mark said in the next group of verses.
“People were bringing little children to him in order that he might touch them; and the disciples spoke sternly to them. But when Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.” And he took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them.” (Verse 13 – 16)
The words of Jesus were harsh to the ears of his disciples; they were being told that it was the hardheartedness of their forebearers that gave leeway to women being abandoned to an uncertain fate. And that the consequences were dire. But in the same way that women were seen as inconsequential disposable property, children were often viewed in the same way. Unimportant and a nuisance when “important things” needed to be done. To Jesus, however, it was more important to welcome, bless, and embrace the children than to push them aside. In the same way, Jesus’ harsh words were a warning not to push aside a wife who became – for whatever reason – unwanted.
At the beginning of the week I set the passages from Genesis and Job side by side. Then I took Job to task for his dismissal of his wife as a “foolish woman.” But it is also true his wife did not seem to be the supportive partner that Jesus says husbands and wives should be to each other. That while they may come from different backgrounds and experiences, once joined together in marriage their differences come together to make a new entity. Eve was a part of Adam, and Adam was the source of Eve – joined by common flesh. One is not considered without the other.
When a marriage dissolves however, that unity is broken. And what had been one flesh is now divided into the separate entities. As a single entity, partnering with another is wrong. But when the entity reforms into two separate parts, the relationship is broken and the bond is no longer there. Did Job’s dismissal of his wife mean their bond was broken? Did Job’s wife callous comment mean that the one flesh had become two again, and Job’s flesh was no longer binding on her? The bible does not say.
In our modern world where partners come together and part in such short periods of time, and so many times, it is refreshing to think about a solid partnership that does not break under pressure or stress. Now, I have not made mention of whether marital partnerships are to be exclusively male and female. I do not want to get into that type of a discussion. BUT let me say that with the impermanence of today’s marriages, ANY couple that vows to be life partners should be given every opportunity to do so! Selah!

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

Season After Pentecost (Proper 22[27]) – The Epistle Passage: Equality under Jesus Christ and the Lord God

I may have tasked myself a bit of challenge, choosing marital issues and commenting on a Epistle passage written by Paul. I have been reading a series of sermons on Paul and the preacher reiterated what I already knew, that Paul wrote for his time and for the people in question in the churches/cities where new believers gathered. So one must understand the circumstances to place his words in context. Furthermore, there is doubt that Paul even wrote the letter to the Hebrews and it might have been someone writing as Paul but writing at a slightly later time than Paul. With these caveats, what ever I might say is no reflection on Paul.
But the greater challenge, beloved reader, is that it does not talk about marriage or marital relationships at all!
“Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds. He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word. When he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.” (Hebrews 1:1 -4)
Biblical scholars who know such things say that this letter was written to the Jewish Christians and is an encouragement not to let persecution dissuade them from their faith. It was said that in order to avoid persecution this believers were thinking about returning to the “proper” Jewish faith and abandon their belief and stop living their lives as Christians. The writer’s purpose was to affirm their belief that Jesus is the Messiah and was from God, and returned to God in the heavens.
“Now God did not subject the coming world, about which we are speaking, to angels. But someone has testified somewhere, “What are human beings that you are mindful of them, or mortals, that you care for them? You have made them for a little while lower than the angels; you have crowned them with glory and honor, subjecting all things under their feet.” Now in subjecting all things to them, God left nothing outside their control. As it is, we do not yet see everything in subjection to them, but we do see Jesus, who for a little while was made lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. It was fitting that God, for whom and through whom all things exist, in bringing many children to glory, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through sufferings.” (Chapter 2, verses 5 – 10)
Admittedly we are a far distance from discussing spousal relationships . . . except, the church has personified as the bride to Jesus as the groom. And while the language may give deference to males/sons Paul “testified somewhere” that in Christ there is no male or female. And all people are equally subject to Jesus Christ. In other words, spouses are seen as equals in being under the rule of Jesus Christ and the Lord God.
“For the one who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one Father. For this reason Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters, saying, “I will proclaim your name to my brothers and sisters, in the midst of the congregation I will praise you.” (Verses 11 – 12)
Now we have the the advantage in reading these passages with inclusive language. And if the writer of the letter to the Hebrews wrote it in the same vein as Paul’s writings, then there is no divide between male and female, between spouses. It may be a peripheral issue to what is being discussed here, and quite frankly the larger issue of Jesus’ being sent by the Lord God is properly more noteworthy. But nonetheless, there is a strong assumption of equality. With all the battles and struggles as to who is more important in terms of gender, race, ethnicity etc – it is nice to know we are equal to the Divine. Selah!

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

Season After Pentecost (Proper 22[27]) – The Old Testament Passage: Marital harmony in the Bible

It is decision time again beloved reader – which Old Testament passage should I use? Job 1:1, 2:1-10 or Genesis 2:18-24? If I am asking the question, however, you can pretty much guess that I know the answer already.
In Genesis we read about the Divine creating woman/Eve from Adam’s rib. I am struck by the verse that says “So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept . . “ (Chapter 2, verse 21b) I never before considered that it was a deep sleep such that surgeons use when they operate.
But that is not the verse that propels my thinking today. Verses 23 & 24 say, “Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; this one shall be called Woman, for out of Man this one was taken.” Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh.” This was God’s intention because verse 18 says, “Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner.” And I contrast that with the passage from Job that says, “Then his wife said to him, “Do you still persist in your integrity? Curse God, and die.” But he said to her, “You speak as any foolish woman would speak. Shall we receive the good at the hand of God, and not receive the bad?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips.“ (Job 2:9 – 10)
Now call it my unusual sense of scripture interweaving and comparison, but it seems to me these two scripture citations are in argument and direct contrast. Adam saw his wife/Eve as the completing part of him. That is, Eve was the counterpart to his existence and without her at his side there was something in his life missing. And Job sees his wife as a foolish woman who does not understand what is at stake in his relationship to the Divine. Furthermore, if Eve (as Adam states it) is very good for him then what happened in the lives of Job and his wife that she is not part of the “good” that was given to him? I am not sure if the fault lays with Job’s wife or Job or the stress of the situation he is in. Were Job and his wife not “one flesh” or had they fallen victim to biblical thinking that a wife is just the possession of her husband and not a valued partner? And if that is the case, what happened between the Garden of Eden and the time that Job lived in?
Now I know you might say the answer is that sin came into the world via (yes, I know!) that Eve succumbed to the temptation of the serpent. And yes, Adam probably thought his life partner would lead him astray. And yes, yes! Job’s wife does seem to be leading him astray by encouraging him to curse God and die. Can we say “dysfunctional marriage”! But it takes both spouses to allow the relationship between them to become sour. You know, I don’t recall Adam calling Eve foolish. Both of them were equally punished. And maybe Job’s wife suffered too; after all it was her children who were killed, her household that suffered loss, and in her household that illness came into. Maybe she wanted to curl up and die too.
I have to admit, beloved reader, I am pulling these passages in some directions that some might have never thought of. And I will give you a foreshadowing – this is not the only time this week the RCL touches on marital relationships. That is, I am not thinking about this in a vacuum. But let us see how the week unwinds, and where the direction that I have started takes us. Shalom for your week!

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

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