Category: Biblical Studies

Sixth Sunday After Epiphany 2019: The Psalm Passage – Kudos to the psalmist for reminding us of how to live a good Christian life

“Happy are those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or take the path that sinners tread, or sit in the seat of scoffers; but their delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law they meditate day and night. They are like trees planted by streams of water, which yield their fruit in its season, and their leaves do not wither. In all that they do, they prosper.” (Psalm 1:1 – 3)
I get stuck on the word “happy” beloved reader. What does the psalmist mean by “happy”? The NIV says “blessed” and I find that word goes down easier. In fact in other translations the word “blessed” is used more often. And that eases my discontent. Because right now I am not “happy” but I do feel blessed. As of this writing I am healing from the radiation treatment but it feels like I have a long way to go. But I feel blessed that I got through the treatment, and that healing will come – just not sure of the pace and course of healing. But . . . . the psalmist is not talking about physicality but the state of one’s soul and spirituality. And that beloved reader is still intact.
Yesterday I talked about heeding the lessons that Jesus set out for his disciples and those within his hearing. And we who have head it across the years and generations should pay heed also. The psalmist does well in anticipating what Jesus would say in the “Sermon on the Plain.”
“The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; for the LORD watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.” (Verses 4 – 6)
You may say to me, heed these words yourself Carole! And I do, and tuck them in my heart placing my hopes in and on them; “the Lord watches over the way of the righteous.” So even if I feel down and not “happy” I can keep hope alive in me and anticipate better days. I can take comfort in being blessed, and wait until being “happy” is more possible. I am trying beloved reader, I am trying! Selah!

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

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Sixth Sunday After Epiphany 2019: The Gospel Passage – Kudos to Jesus for teaching hard lessons concerning the Christian life

“He came down with them and stood on a level place, with a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea, Jerusalem, and the coast of Tyre and Sidon. They had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases; and those who were troubled with unclean spirits were cured.
And all in the crowd were trying to touch him, for power came out from him and healed all of them.” (Luke 6:17 – 19)
Everyone loves a good performance and performer. And Jesus delivered. But . . . . . Jesus was more than a miracle. More than a “flash in the pan” of power. He came just to do miracles, but to change people and the life they lived.
“Then he looked up at his disciples and said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. “Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled. “Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. “Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets.” (Verses 20 – 23)
Additionally, Jesus was more than “good news”, more than kudos for enduring tough times. Jesus was out to turn upside expectations and assumptions.
“But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. “Woe to you who are full now, for you will be hungry. “Woe to you who are laughing now, for you will mourn and weep. “Woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets.” (Verses 24 – 26)
I am not sure if all of this was directed to his disciples or to those who were gathered – those who had benefited from the power and healing. Living a Christian life is more than an “easy ride” through this world. I have learned that many times over, and learned it at a very young age.
That is not to say there is no blessing and comfort in living a correct authentic Christian life. But those blessings and comforts are not necessarily what the “earthly” world would call benefits.
At this writing I have completed the last of my radiation treatments. Now I turn my thoughts and attentions to healing and regaining what was lost to me because of the treatments. But, beloved reader, I have gained more during this time than I have lost. Once again I learned my strength and endurance does not come through human flesh and sinew. My strength and endurance comes from the Lord. And whatever my future health may hold, because of the Lord God strengthening me and guiding me, I am blessed beyond measure! Selah!

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

Sixth Sunday After Epiphany 2019: The Epistle Passage – Kudos to Paul for setting out a good teaching and argument

“Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain and your faith has been in vain.” (I Corinthians 15:12 – 14)
I am not sure it is Paul, or whether it is the argument style that was popular at the time that Paul wrote – but it at times sounds like Paul is setting out a belief that is contrary to what we know about him. I suspect it is the latter. And it is an argument style that was very Greek in its origins. So it makes sense that Paul would use it in writing to the Greeks in Corinth.
“We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified of God that he raised Christ–whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised. If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.” (Verses 15 – 17)
The way Paul sets the case, the Greeks in Corinth would be compelled to accept that truth that Paul is teaching, else they are lost.
“Then those also who have died in Christ have perished.” (Verse 18)
And Paul delivers the final piece of his compelling argument. Now I do not have the information at my fingertips, but it seems to me that the Greeks put a great deal of thought and faith into the afterlife. For those not converted to Christianity, they would have the beliefs that we typically think of when thinking about Greek culture. And we know that whatever one’s faith may be, cultural beliefs nudge us and color our faith beliefs. And that is not wrong, nor a sin. We know from missionary trips and experiences that we have heard of that Christians around the world access faith through the lens of their culture, translating basic beliefs into an understanding that resonates with them. And I have to admit, Paul is quite adept at accessing and putting into good use the culture lens of the people he speaks/writes to.
“If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died.” (Verses 19 – 20)
The term “first fruits” sort of puzzled me – did it puzzle you beloved reader? What Paul meant was the Christ was the first to die, and then be raised to new life. I am not sure what that says about the called and chosen people of God who had already died. But then, this is addressed to the Greeks. Paul winds up his argument by saying the first fruits – the best and most perfect – had gone before the believers to show them the way to the life after this, eternal life. Which to the Greek lens of understanding is something highly valued. Yes, I really have to admire Paul for using his understanding of Greek thinking to further his preaching and teaching.
Now, beloved reader, how can you use your unique cultural understanding for the preaching and teaching of the Lord God! Shalom!

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

Sixth Sunday After Epiphany 2019: The Old Testament Passage – Preacher and Seeker consider their skills and talents

Preacher: “Thus says the LORD: Cursed are those who trust in mere mortals and make mere flesh their strength, whose hearts turn away from the LORD.”
Seeker: When I was young, I looked up to people who had physical strength, who played sports, who had glamorous careers, who held the spotlight of media attention. But I learned when I came to faith that these things are fleeting and not worthy of pursuit. The famous, the wealthy, the glamorous rise and fall – here today and gone tomorrow.
Preacher: “They shall be like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see when relief comes. They shall live in the parched places of the wilderness, in an uninhabited salt land.”
Seeker: What is fame and fortune that I might seek it? Each person is gifted with talents and abilities. They can be used to build and create a legacy worth remembering; or they can be turned into futile efforts to garner attention. Blessed are they who find satisfaction in the doing and not in the praise of others.
Then I asked myself, with my skills and talents do I seek the accolades of others, or do I hone my skills for giving glory to God?
Preacher: “Blessed are those who trust in the LORD, whose trust is the LORD. They shall be like a tree planted by water, sending out its roots by the stream. It shall not fear when heat comes, and its leaves shall stay green; in the year of drought it is not anxious, and it does not cease to bear fruit.”
Seeker: When I seek to honor the Lord with my talents and skills, I am like a tree that stretches out its roots, find nurture and sustenance in grounded faith in the Lord. The winds of change that rise up one person, and bring another – I will never have to fear them.
Preacher: “The heart is devious above all else; it is perverse– who can understand it?”
Seeker: It is tempting to measure my self worth in the eyes of the public and the media. To judge my efforts by the approval of others. It is only when I measure myself against the example and the teachings of the Lord God Jesus Christ that I can know how well I have succeeded or failed.
Preacher: “I the LORD test the mind and search the heart, to give to all according to their ways, according to the fruit of their doings.” ( Jeremiah 17:5-10)
Seeker: May the Lord search me, and discern what good I have done and what evil I have committed. Then I will seek forgiveness and mercy from the Lord for my wrongdoings, and praise the Lord for the blessings the Divine has given. Then I will use my talents and skills to further the mission of the Lord! Selah!

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

Podcast: If Jesus is the Word of God, Why Call the Bible the Word of God?

Stories and words and Bible nerds.  Send Questions To: Dan: @thatdankent Email: askgregboyd@gmail.com Twitter: @reKnewOrg http://traffic.libsyn.com/askgregboyd/Episode_0459.mp3 Subscribe: iTunes | Stitcher | Google Play | RSS art: “Pierrot with Book” by: Juan Gris date: 1924
The post Podcast: If Jesus is the Word of God, Why Call the Bible the Word of God? appeared first on Greg Boyd - ReKnew.

Syndicated from Greg Boyd – ReKnew

Fifth Sunday After Epiphany 2019: The Psalm Passage – Saying thank you to the Lord God

“I give you thanks, O LORD, with my whole heart; before the gods I sing your praise; I bow down toward your holy temple and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness; for you have exalted your name and your word above everything.” (Psalm 138:1 – 2)
On the day you read this, beloved reader, I will have completed all of my radiation therapy, and will be focusing on healing and waiting to find out if the radiation therapy worked. Through this time I have depended on the Lord for a great deal, and I give thanks to the Divine for seeing me throughout. Much of my strength has come from writing these commentaries, wrestling with the themes and messages, and yes, wrestling with praising the Lord God when I have been under great strain, stress, and illness.
“On the day I called, you answered me, you increased my strength of soul. All the kings of the earth shall praise you, O LORD, for they have heard the words of your mouth. They shall sing of the ways of the LORD, for great is the glory of the LORD. For though the LORD is high, he regards the lowly; but the haughty he perceives from far away.” (Verses 3 – 6)
It occurred to me some time back (maybe I have said this before) that I did not use imaging that many cancer patients do, imaging and imaging that the treatment is targeting the cancer cells and destroying them. But what I did do was focusing on doing self care – using creams that would heal my skin and prescriptions that would heal my mouth. I was gentle with myself, as gentle as I imaged and imagined the Lord God would be with me. And I prayed – oh how I prayed! And the Divine heard me! At each step one I did not feel I could go on, the Lord provided encouragement through the people around me, through encounters with music and scripture, and through medications that eased my pain and helped to heal my body. I will be forever grateful that the Lord blessed me in these ways.
After treatment is completed will come a time of waiting to see if the treatment was successful. And during that time I will continue praying and placing my faith in the Lord God the Divine.
“Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve me against the wrath of my enemies; you stretch out your hand, and your right hand delivers me.” (Verse 7)
On of the ironies of this disease, this cancer, is that it is my own body that has grown these cancerous cells that have endangered my life. They must be killed off, at the risk of also killing off healthy cells which has caused radiation burns both on my outer skin and in my mouth. Such a paradox to kill off part of myself in order to save myself. And yet isn’t that what we do when we embark on the Christian life? Kill off our misguided and sinful human impulses to save our life?
“The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O LORD, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of your hands.” (Verse 8)
We, humanity, were made in the image of the Lord God. But we are flawed and imperfect. That flaw and imperfection must be taken out, irradiated if you will, so that I better selves under the Divine can grow and flourish. The teaching and guidance of the Lord have been spoken of as a refinery’s fire. Radiation, then, is not such an unusual metaphor.
Whether or not this treatment works, I do know that through the course of this past month and a half I have learned a great deal about myself; and I have come to see even more clearly that the Lord has not ever forsaken me. Praise the Lord! Selah!

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

Fifth Sunday After Epiphany 2019: The Gospel Passage – Being called to be a Christian

“Once while Jesus was standing beside the lake of Gennesaret, and the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, he saw two boats there at the shore of the lake; the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little way from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat.” (Luke 5:1 – 4)
After re-reading the above verses several times, a feeling of foreshadowing came upon me. Simon, otherwise known as Peter. The first encounter between the two of them. And there is Simon Peter, a captive audience to Jesus. All of the moments and events between Jesus and the man who would be named Peter, likened to the “rocks” that Jesus will build his holy church upon. But let us move forward in the story.
“When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.” Simon answered, “Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing. Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets.” When they had done this, they caught so many fish that their nets were beginning to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both boats, so that they began to sink.” (Verses 5 – 7)
These are the types of verses I need to read right now. I have “worked” long and hard during my time of radiation treatment. Before that finding a new job after my old one was taken from me. And before that dealing with declining health issues. I feel like I have worked “all night” but my “net” keeps coming up empty. The Lord says to me, “Keep trying! Keeping lowering your net and I will fill it.”
“But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!” For he and all who were with him were amazed at the catch of fish that they had taken; and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who are partners with Simon. Then Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people.” When they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed him.” (Verses 8 – 11)
Have you, beloved reader, cast aside all other considerations to follow the Lord? Was it after the Lord God filled your “net” so completely that you were convinced that you could depend upon the Lord for all things? The interesting thing about Simon Peter and his fellow fishermen is that they left the life they knew for what they thought would be a life of abundance, I am sure. But they learned is that while the Lord God can fill anyone’s net to bursting, that is not all there is (not nearly all there is) to living a Christian life. Nets filled with fish was only the attention getter. Jesus had much more to teach and show them. One of the things that helps me persevere is that the Divine will have a get deal to show and teach me from this experience. At least that is my prayer! Selah!

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

Fifth Sunday After Epiphany 2019: The Epistle Passage – “Growing up” to be a Christian

“Now I would remind you, brothers and sisters, of the good news that I proclaimed to you, which you in turn received, in which also you stand, through which also you are being saved, if you hold firmly to the message that I proclaimed to you–unless you have come to believe in vain. For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles.” (I Corinthians 15:1 – 7)
One has to wonder about the Corinthians. They remind me of newly converted Christians who want to espouse a new faith but keep getting muddled and caught up in previous beliefs and ways of life. In other chapters of Corinthians Paul sets down rules of living and living with each other. In this chapter he seems to be reminding of the basic tenets of faith and what he had preached to them previously.
“Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me has not been in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them–though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. Whether then it was I or they, so we proclaim and so you have come to believe.” (Verses 8 – 11)
Paul would seem almost a little too “preachy” if it were not for his self-disclaimer that he is the “least of the apostles” and that it is only because of the grace of God that he is who he is. Perhaps that is why he has so much patience with the Corinthians, because he knows what it is like to come to new faith and try to learn how to conform his life to it. We forget (maybe) that what we are reading is a Paul who has been steeped in faith. Maybe at his early beginnings he too had to figure out what is correct and good to do. That gives the rest of us a measure Divine grace and forbearance that we often may need. Selah!

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

Fifth Sunday After Epiphany 2019: The Old Testament Passage – Being called to challenging tasks, and remaining faithful

“In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lofty; and the hem of his robe filled the temple. Seraphs were in attendance above him; each had six wings: with two they covered their faces, and with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew. And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.” The pivots on the thresholds shook at the voices of those who called, and the house filled with smoke.” (Isaiah 6:1 – 4)
Isaiah realized he was in holy space, or his vision was touched by the Divine. One has to wonder if/how his vision was influenced by the understanding of the Divine at that time, and the art and architecture of the time. But that does not, and should not, lessen the impact it had on Isaiah.
“And I said: “Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!” Then one of the seraphs flew to me, holding a live coal that had been taken from the altar with a pair of tongs. The seraph touched my mouth with it and said: “Now that this has touched your lips, your guilt has departed and your sin is blotted out.” (Verses 5 – 7)
It makes me wonder just a little bit about how we prepared ourselves when we sit down to read the bible, do spiritual meditations, or worship the Lord. Do we ask or prepare ourselves to interact with the Divine? We may hold some minor in credulousness the Isaiah actually really saw this, seraph with tongs and live coal ectetera. But we cannot deny the the writer of the book of Isaiah went on to do and write some mighty stuff.
“Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I; send me!” And he said, “Go and say to this people: ‘Keep listening, but do not comprehend; keep looking, but do not understand.’ Make the mind of this people dull, and stop their ears, and shut their eyes, so that they may not look with their eyes, and listen with their ears, and comprehend with their minds, and turn and be healed.” (Verses 8 – 10)
Of course one wonders why the outcome of Isaiah’s mission and ministry was that the people remained dull and did not understand. It was apparently not the fault and intention of Isaiah. It was that the called and chosen people has wandered so far from faithful worship of God that no words reached them or broke through.
“Then I said, “How long, O Lord?” And he said: “Until cities lie waste without inhabitant, and houses without people, and the land is utterly desolate; until the LORD sends everyone far away, and vast is the emptiness in the midst of the land. Even if a tenth part remain in it, it will be burned again, like a terebinth or an oak whose stump remains standing when it is felled.” The holy seed is its stump.” (Verses 10 – 13)
For all that, Isaiah could be talking about our modern times. I know that may surprise you, especially beloved reader if you consider yourself a faithful follower of the Divine. But I remind you that by the time we get down to the coming of Jesus there were still those who were faithful. The “burning” refers not necessarily to every man, woman, and child – but to the bulk of the nation. Or more precisely the identity of the nation. And so we may consider our world and the general nature of humanity. Are you one of the “pockets” of faithful believers. Might you be part of the “holy seed”? Selah!

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

Presentation of the Lord Day Year C 2019

“When the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord”), and they offered a sacrifice according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.” (Luke 2:22 – 24)
I started to write on this passage several days ago but I was becoming I’ll from the side effects of radiation and just couldn’t focus and think what to say. Some days later I am starting to recover and feel more myself. However, I am not at my computer keyboard but still in the hospital and am pecking this out on my iPad tablet. It took some thinking and logistics to get to this point of copying and pasting the text and then doing a hunt and peck to write with a pen stylus. So please forgive any spelling and grammar errors. The human spirit will not be subdued or stopped by adversity or challenge.
But enough of me. Let’s look to Mary and Joseph, and infant Jesus who, according to customs, are journeying to Jerusalem. It is probably a journey many young couples made, but for Mary and Joseph it was of special significance because of who Jesus was destined to become. There were also people already in place for this event. Consider that beloved reader, that it was fore ordained that at this day and time those who would inform and influence this young couple are in place and waiting to play their part.
“Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Guided by the Spirit, Simeon came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him what was customary under the law, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying,”Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.” (Verses 25 – 32)
It is hard for me, beloved reader, to separate out the posts/commentaries on scripture and what is going in my own life. It is the lens through which I understand how the scripture impacts me. You also, beloved reader, bring your life circumstances to the understanding and discernment of scripture.
Have you brought something or someone to the attention of the Divine? Are you seeking prayer or guidance in your life or on behalf of someone else? Does it seem like the waiting goes on forever? Consider how long the Jewish people had to wait for the Messiah. But then consider how long we have been waiting for the return of the Divine. As long or perhaps longer than the Jewish people, who once were the Hebrews and then the Israelites/Judahites, waited. Jesus came at the proper time, just as Mary and Joseph came to the temple at the proper time, and Simeon came at the proper time.
“And the child’s father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, “This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed–and a sword will pierce your own soul too.” (Verses 32 – 35)
It also happens in the course of things that what we receive after waiting is not what we expected. It may not fulfill our expectations the way we thought it would. Not long enough or strong enough; or not gentle and mild enough. Like Goldilocks in the Three Bears, what we search and wait for it not “just right.” And it hurts when our expectations are not meet and fulfilled. The Jews expected a Messiah that would be like the king that the Israelites sought. A king that would rule on/from earth and bring victory to the Jewish people. But Jesus was not that type of king. It is a sign of faith, beloved reader, to wait and not be held to any one outcome.
“There was also a prophet, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, having lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped there with fasting and prayer night and day. At that moment she came, and began to praise God and to speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.” (Verses 36 – 38)
We are expected to go about our Christian lives, doing what it correct and good, living out an authentic Christian life no matter what befalls us.
“When they had finished everything required by the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.” (Verses 39 – 40)
In the midst of the day I wrote this post, I was released from the hospital and returned home. I was glad to do so. But very quickly it became apparent that I would be plunged back into the daily tasks of home life. My almost two day of away time was, despite the ill health, a good reprieve. But as so many reprieves go, just when it gets to be therapeutic it comes to an end. I was deemed well enough to go home.
I thought of just commenting on the passage from the Gospel. But being a celebration day I wanted it to resonate a little more.
“See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple. The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight–indeed, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts. But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap; he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the descendants of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, until they present offerings to the LORD in righteousness. Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the LORD as in the days of old and as in former years.” (Malachi 3:1-4)
However, beloved reader, I am leaving it to you to discern for yourself how my post title may apply to this passage as well. Think of what the Messiah was supposed to be like according the called and chosen people of God during Malachi’s time. Think of how the life Jesus prescribes for us winnows out those who cannot commit to such a life. And think of how we must live from now until the Divine comes again to winnow out the believers who have held firm. Selah!
 
 

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

Fourth Sunday After Epiphany 2019: The Psalm Passage – Being dependent on the Divine

If you were surprised by my “appearing” yesterday, do not be. You did not miss a day, and I did not slip a cog (although I was dealing with some mighty pain issues). This Saturday is the Day of the Presentation of the Lord, and I wanted to write a commentary on those passages, so I decided to add an extra day on Thursday and shuffle things around. So here it is Friday, and I am settling down to “praise” the Lord!
“In you, O LORD, I take refuge; let me never be put to shame.” (Psalm 74:1)
One of the prayers and pleas that I raised up to the Lord early in my seminary training was that I would not be “put to shame” in my classes. It was for me a bold step to say that I wanted to go to seminary and train for ministry. I honestly did not know if I had the intellect to be successful at a graduate level, and was not sure which direction I should go. Hence my prayer.
“In your righteousness deliver me and rescue me; incline your ear to me and save me.” (Verse 2)
Since that time I have received affirmation from many places, and have not once been “put to shame.” The Lord has been faithful in the promises that were given to me. And when I had dark times, as any and many people do, I was rescued. Once again during the “season” of my treatment of cancer (it is still hard for me to believe this is happening) I am reaching out and depending on the Lord to see me through this.
“Be to me a rock of refuge, a strong fortress, to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress.” (Verse 3)
It only recently occurred to me that during treatment I could use an established meditation technique to envision/image the radiation treatment shrinking the tumor. So dependent on the Divine, I did not think of using anything other than gathering up and applying the faith I have in the Lord to this situation. With the psalmist I also said . . . . .
“Rescue me, O my God, from the hand of the wicked, from the grasp of the unjust and cruel. For you, O Lord, are my hope, my trust, O LORD, from my youth. Upon you I have leaned from my birth; it was you who took me from my mother’s womb. My praise is continually of you.” (Verses 4 – 6)

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

Fourth Sunday After Epiphany 2019: The Gospel Passage – Being “loved” by Jesus the Christ

“Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?” (Luke 4:21-22)
This is a continuation of last week’s gospel passage – I did wonder if the RCL was going to complete the story. I also wonder if the people of Jesus’ hometown were favorably impressed with Jesus’ gracious words, or surprised. Furthermore it occurred to me, were they surprised that Joseph had a son who had such “gracious words”?
“He said to them, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘Doctor, cure yourself!’ And you will say, ‘Do here also in your hometown the things that we have heard you did at Capernaum.'” And he said, “Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s hometown.” (Verses 23 – 24)
But then I read these verses, and I have to wonder if maybe the hometown folk were critical of him; they apparently (Jesus implies) were aware of the miracles, signs, and wonders he had done in other places. And Jesus again implies that they expected him to do such things in his hometown for them.
“But the truth is, there were many widows in Israel in the time of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, and there was a severe famine over all the land; yet Elijah was sent to none of them except to a widow at Zarephath in Sidon. There were also many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.” (Verses 25 – 27)
It does not seem, beloved reader, that Jesus’ words to the hometown people continued to be “gracious”, at least in their estimation.
“When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage. They got up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they might hurl him off the cliff. But he passed through the midst of them and went on his way.” (Verses 28 – 30)
Consider this carefully, beloved reader, we are presented with varying views and aspects of Jesus Christ through the words and images of the gospel writers. Just as in the case of the Old Testament and the way it portrays the Lord God the Divine, the gospels and the epistles may present a view of Jesus that does not line up with our personal experience. Jesus seemed to be quite angry that the hometown folk did not believe he was the Son of the Divine, and seemed to demand proof of his Divinity. Surely this episode did not happen in a vacuum but was the culmination of Jesus visiting his hometown. Is the Jesus you know this peevish about lack of belief in himself?
The gospel writer portray Jesus, at times, with a vehemence that seems out of character with the Jesus Christ I have experienced personally. I am not sure I have any definitive answers concerning this passage. And I am pretty sure I won’t find the answers in any commentators notes. So I continue to try to discern and understand such passages – some days and times I have more success than others. But that I am sure is that Jesus has vast amounts of patience with authentic and earnest seekers of him. Selah!

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

Fourth Sunday After Epiphany 2019: The Epistle Passage – Being a “lover” for the Lord God

“If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.” (I Corinthians 13:1 – 3)
It is, quite honestly beloved reader, hard to think about Paul as a “lover.” But that only means the type of love he is talking about is not the soft, mushy romantic love that we usually think of.
“Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth.
It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (Verses 4 – 7)
It is said that sustaining romantic love, or love that marriages/romantic intimate relations are commonly associated with, is hard. Harder still, I think, is the type of love that Paul is talking about.
“Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end.” (Verses 8 – 10)
Now this in an interesting portion. Paul is saying the gifts of the Lord that are given on earth will not be needed in the world to come: we will not need prophecies because all things will be known; we will not need to speak in tongues or understand tongues because communication will be instantaneous; and all will have all knowledge. What we know and know of now is incomplete and therefore imperfect. In the world to come, when all things are complete and finished, then we will know in full and perfectly. And still there will be love. It will not end.
“When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known.” (Verses 11 – 12)
To me verses eleven to twelve are both comforting and disconcerting. It seems that as each year passes I learn more and understand more about myself, others, and the world. There are many meme and adages about adulthood, “adulting” and maturity. Some amusing and sone that contain great truths about our relative understanding even as adults versus what is actual and of the highest truth. We do not attain adulthood and complete understanding (in this world) as much as we keeping getting better at it. It heartens me to think and believe that I don’t have to have figured everything. But neither do I think we should completely set aside “child-like” ways. Maybe the self-centered impetuousness of a child, but not the innocence and naivete of a child. Jesus said that all must have faith like a child’s. That may be another thing I would like to talk to Paul about – how he understood that.
“And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.” (Verse 13)
Paul’s argument has come full circle. If I were to be of a mind to write a great deal more, I would say many things about faith and hope. And probably repeat things I have said in the past. We each have our own faith, faith beliefs & tenets, and faith circles. We all have hope – whether it is dim hope that has been tested and assaulted by circumstances in life, or bright hope that cannot be quenched. When all – that is at the end of this world – is said and done, love will remain. And it is that love, our love of the Divine and the love the Divine has for us, which will see us “Home”! Selah!

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

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