Category: Discipleship

Season After Pentecost (Proper 7[12]) – The Epistle Passage: The gospel not in vain

“As we work together with him, we urge you also not to accept the grace of God in vain. For he says, “At an acceptable time I have listened to you, and on a day of salvation I have helped you.” See, now is the acceptable time; see, now is the day of salvation!” (II Corinthians 6:1 – 2)
I did a double-take in reading the first part of verse one – “not accept the grace of God”! However the “in vain” ending put a whole new meaning to the verse. And I think this admonition is just appropriate now as then. If I can understand and paraphrase the mind of Paul . . . do not halfheartedly follow God or only follow God when it is easy and convenient. If you are going to commit yourself to the Divine, do so with authenticity and devotion.
“We are putting no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, but as servants of God we have commended ourselves in every way: through great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, holiness of spirit, genuine love, truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; in honor and dishonor, in ill repute and good repute. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet are well known; as dying, and see–we are alive; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing everything.” (Verses 3 – 10)
Paul then goes on to give example after example, and incident after incident of how the road and ministry has been rough for him, but he has stayed the course. The key to reading this without losing one’s patience with Paul or feeling like he is bragging is to understand that “commend” does not mean self-congratulations but have acted in a way that is consistent with devotion to a cause. Now if one is judiciously slow, as I am, in commending Paul’s actions and intent, verses three to ten are read carefully and proof is sought in other writings to see if Paul is genuine. Paul was very outspoken and did not “test the waters” before he spoke up. I suspect at times it was as much his style of presentation of the gospel as it was the content of him message that got him into trouble.
“We have spoken frankly to you Corinthians; our heart is wide open to you. There is no restriction in our affections, but only in yours. In return–I speak as to children–open wide your hearts also.” (Verses 11 – 13)
Have you known people like Paul, beloved reader? People who speak truth but bluntly and outright? Who dive into a situation without fully exploring what might be involved? Paul at times reminds me of a missionary who strides forth with the gospel and does not first investigate the best way to explain the gospel. Legions of missionaries have done that in the past, and the results were very mixed. There is a time and place for Paul’s type of ministry. But, enough said; and I digress.
Paul makes a good point – do not hear the message of salvation and then not take it to heart and action. While Paul may be “commending” himself a little bit much, he did live out the gospel as it was given to him. And did not hesitate to act on it, at the risk of his own life. May hold to that example. Selah!

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

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Season After Pentecost (Proper 7[12]) – The Old Testament Passage: David Succeeds

This week’s two options for the Old Testament passage are stories part one and part two of David killing Goliath and the honor that was given David afterwards. Part one – I Samuel 17:(1a, 4-11, 19-23), 32-49 – details David’s preparation and killing of Goliath. Part two – I Samuel 17:57-18:5, 18:10-16 – tells of David becoming part of Saul’s court and his champion on the battlefield, and Saul’s increasing jealousy. I am not sure which passage to highlight. The two Old Testament passages have differing psalm passages, so that might also influence my final decision. I prefer the psalm passage that is connected to David’s battle and victory over Goliath. But of the two Old Testament passages, it is the Old Testament passage of David’s becoming part of Saul’s court that I like better. BUT I cannot mix the two. That is, my respect for the pairing done in the Revised Common Lectionary will not allow me to re-match the two passages I like. But perhaps there is something I can do to resolve this dilemma. I can present to you the portions of the two passages that resonate with me. I encourage you to read both passages and consider what parts resonate with you.
We know the story of David and Goliath well. It has become a matter for conquering something that at first inspection is larger and mighty than we are.
“And there came out from the camp of the Philistines a champion named Goliath, of Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span. He had a helmet of bronze on his head, and he was armed with a coat of mail; the weight of the coat was five thousand shekels of bronze. He had greaves of bronze on his legs and a javelin of bronze slung between his shoulders. The shaft of his spear was like a weaver’s beam, and his spear’s head weighed six hundred shekels of iron; and his shield-bearer went before him. He stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel, “Why have you come out to draw up for battle? Am I not a Philistine, and are you not servants of Saul? Choose a man for yourselves, and let him come down to me. If he is able to fight with me and kill me, then we will be your servants; but if I prevail against him and kill him, then you shall be our servants and serve us.” And the Philistine said, “Today I defy the ranks of Israel! Give me a man, that we may fight together.” When Saul and all Israel heard these words of the Philistine, they were dismayed and greatly afraid.” (I Samuel 17:4-11)
While Saul and all the warriors of Israel who heard this were disheartened and afraid, David felt differently and spoke up.
“David said to Saul, “Let no one’s heart fail because of him; your servant will go and fight with this Philistine. . . . this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them [the wild beasts that David killed defending his father’s sheep], since he has defied the armies of the living God.” (Verse 32, 36b)
Have there been insurmountable things in your life, beloved reader? Have you been maligned and insulted, but have been to cowed and afraid to defend yourself? Now it is interesting that Jesus would tell us to “turn the other cheek”. But David’s hackles were raised and he was determined to fit. But, he fought in his own way.
“Saul clothed David with his armor; he put a bronze helmet on his head and clothed him with a coat of mail. David strapped Saul’s sword over the armor, and he tried in vain to walk, for he was not used to them. Then David said to Saul, “I cannot walk with these; for I am not used to them.” So David removed them. Then he took his staff in his hand, and chose five smooth stones from the wadi, and put them in his shepherd’s bag, in the pouch; his sling was in his hand, and he drew near to the Philistine. . . . . But David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with sword and spear and javelin; but I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This very day the LORD will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head; and I will give the dead bodies of the Philistine army this very day to the birds of the air and to the wild animals of the earth, so that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that all this assembly may know that the LORD does not save by sword and spear; for the battle is the Lord’s and he will give you into our hand. ” (Verses 38 – 40, 45 – 47)
David did not come armed and ready with mail and armor. He came to face down Goliath clothed only in the might of the Lord. [And if I do say so, a lot of luck! It is said that the Divine, the Godself, might have guided the stone to the precise spot. Or, David knew a thing or two about what helmets do and do not protect.]
David was brought into Saul’s court and won favor there. We have to assume that David spent years in Saul’s court learning how to battle in more conventional ways, and becoming more accustomed to mail and armor. We read in the second Old Testament passage,
“David went out and was successful wherever Saul sent him; as a result, Saul set him over the army. And all the people, even the servants of Saul, approved. . . . So Saul removed him from his presence [because of Saul’s jealousy] , and made him a commander of a thousand; and David marched out and came in, leading the army. David had success in all his undertakings; for the LORD was with him. ” (Chapter 18, verse 5, 13 – 14)
I have to admire Saul for seeing that David could succeed where he, Saul, had failed to gain victory through the Lord. The Lord may have “departed” from Saul, but Saul still knew the aura that indicated the Lord was on one’s side and guiding one’s life. And I think that is the major lesson I would want to take from this passage. At this time in David’s life he depended greatly on the Lord, and sought the Lord’s will at every turn. He was, as it is often said, a man after the Lord’s own heart. May we face the giants in our lives with as much courage depending not on the might of the world but the might of the Lord. Selah!

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

Season After Pentecost (Proper 6 [11]) – The Psalm Passage: Preacher & Seeker “preach” it!

Preacher: “The LORD answer you in the day of trouble! The name of the God of Jacob protect you!”
Seeker: I was troubled and the Lord came to me. I lifted up prayers and petitions and the Lord remembered me – because I had prayed to the Lord so many times before! My world was shattered and the Lord helped me to rebuild what I had lost.
Preacher: “May he send you help from the sanctuary, and give you support from Zion.”
Seeker: The Lord promised me I would not be alone. And the Angel of Lord has been my constant companion. Believers who have gone before me have shown me the way to live, and have passed to me the faith that sustained them.
Preacher: “May he remember all your offerings, and regard with favor your burnt sacrifices. Selah”
Seeker: I have nothing to offer but my contrite heart, and the strength of my bones and spirit. But I offer them willingly to the Divine and place them in service to minister to all of creation and humanity.
Preacher: “May he grant you your heart’s desire, and fulfill all your plans.”
Seeker: The Lord God has looked into my heart, and seen the wishes and dreams I hold deep inside. The Divine invites me to test them against the law of love, and instructs me as to how I might live. The Lord’s plans have become my plans, and with the Lord every dream is possible.
Preacher: “May we shout for joy over your victory, and in the name of our God set up our banners. May the LORD fulfill all your petitions.
Seeker: I prayed to the Lord on my own behalf, but I have been shown a better way. I asked for victory and have been shown the Lord’s victory. Apart from the Lord I achieve nothing. With the Lord all of my petitions have been answered.
Preacher: “Now I know that the LORD will help his anointed; he will answer him from his holy heaven with mighty victories by his right hand.”
Seeker: Seek out the Lord and the Lord’s will. The Divine is ever ready to come to your aid. A cause taken up for the sake of the Lord will be a cause that seek completion.
Preacher: “Some take pride in chariots, and some in horses, but our pride is in the name of the LORD our God.”
Seeker: Boast in the Lord, and in the Lord God’s might. Think not of yourself, but others. When the Lord leads the way, good things follow. Instruct those who think they can succeed apart from the Lord.
Preacher: “They will collapse and fall, but we shall rise and stand upright.”
Seeker & Preacher: “Give victory to the king, O LORD; answer us when we call.” (Psalm 20)

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

Season After Pentecost (Proper 6 [11]) – The Psalm Passage: Preacher & Seeker “preach” it!

Preacher: “The LORD answer you in the day of trouble! The name of the God of Jacob protect you!”
Seeker: I was troubled and the Lord came to me. I lifted up prayers and petitions and the Lord remembered me – because I had prayed to the Lord so many times before! My world was shattered and the Lord helped me to rebuild what I had lost.
Preacher: “May he send you help from the sanctuary, and give you support from Zion.”
Seeker: The Lord promised me I would not be alone. And the Angel of Lord has been my constant companion. Believers who have gone before me have shown me the way to live, and have passed to me the faith that sustained them.
Preacher: “May he remember all your offerings, and regard with favor your burnt sacrifices. Selah”
Seeker: I have nothing to offer but my contrite heart, and the strength of my bones and spirit. But I offer them willingly to the Divine and place them in service to minister to all of creation and humanity.
Preacher: “May he grant you your heart’s desire, and fulfill all your plans.”
Seeker: The Lord God has looked into my heart, and seen the wishes and dreams I hold deep inside. The Divine invites me to test them against the law of love, and instructs me as to how I might live. The Lord’s plans have become my plans, and with the Lord every dream is possible.
Preacher: “May we shout for joy over your victory, and in the name of our God set up our banners. May the LORD fulfill all your petitions.
Seeker: I prayed to the Lord on my own behalf, but I have been shown a better way. I asked for victory and have been shown the Lord’s victory. Apart from the Lord I achieve nothing. With the Lord all of my petitions have been answered.
Preacher: “Now I know that the LORD will help his anointed; he will answer him from his holy heaven with mighty victories by his right hand.”
Seeker: Seek out the Lord and the Lord’s will. The Divine is ever ready to come to your aid. A cause taken up for the sake of the Lord will be a cause that seek completion.
Preacher: “Some take pride in chariots, and some in horses, but our pride is in the name of the LORD our God.”
Seeker: Boast in the Lord, and in the Lord God’s might. Think not of yourself, but others. When the Lord leads the way, good things follow. Instruct those who think they can succeed apart from the Lord.
Preacher: “They will collapse and fall, but we shall rise and stand upright.”
Seeker & Preacher: “Give victory to the king, O LORD; answer us when we call.” (Psalm 20)

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

Season After Pentecost (Proper 6 [11]) – The Old Testament Passage: Being true to the call of the Lord

“Then Samuel went to Ramah; and Saul went up to his house in Gibeah of Saul. Samuel did not see Saul again until the day of his death, but Samuel grieved over Saul. And the LORD was sorry that he had made Saul king over Israel.” (1 Samuel 15:34 – 35)
Saul had fallen from grace and favor under the Lord and under Samuel. The Lord had known Saul’s heart – we presume – and therefore knew that Saul would not be a king after the Lord’s heart. But it did not make the Lord love Saul any less. Just as the Lord did not love the Israelites any less because the elder of Israel wanted a king. I am not sure though how the writer knew that the Lord was sorry the Divine had made Saul king of Israel. It is sort of in contrary juxtaposition to the first verse of chapter 16.
“The LORD said to Samuel, “How long will you grieve over Saul? I have rejected him from being king over Israel. Fill your horn with oil and set out; I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have provided for myself a king among his sons.” (chapter 16, verse 1)
Maybe, and this is just a thought, maybe time needed to pass until David was ready for kingship. If we believe that the Lord answers prayer but on a timeline that the Divine only knows, maybe there needed to be a space of time for David to arrive at the age where his ascent to kingship would start. Or maybe the Israelites needed to see a poor king so they would know a good king.
“Samuel said, “How can I go? If Saul hears of it, he will kill me.” And the LORD said, “Take a heifer with you, and say, ‘I have come to sacrifice to the LORD.’ Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what you shall do; and you shall anoint for me the one whom I name to you.” (Verses 2 – 3)
Or, maybe Samuel needed to be nurtured along to know what a good king looked like. There are so many possibilities, that I could speculate for some time.
“Samuel did what the LORD commanded, and came to Bethlehem. The elders of the city came to meet him trembling, and said, “Do you come peaceably?” He said, “Peaceably; I have come to sacrifice to the LORD; sanctify yourselves and come with me to the sacrifice.” And he sanctified Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice.” (Verses 4 – 5)
Now we come to the pivotal event. Now we approach the beginning of what will be the odyssey and legacy that is the line from the kings of Israel & Judah to the Christ. Now we see that the outer appearance need not indicate the inner life.
“When they came, he looked on Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed is now before the LORD.” But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the LORD does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.” Then Jesse called Abinadab, and made him pass before Samuel. He said, “Neither has the LORD chosen this one.” Then Jesse made Shammah pass by. And he said, “Neither has the LORD chosen this one.” Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel, and Samuel said to Jesse, “The LORD has not chosen any of these.” Samuel said to Jesse, “Are all your sons here?” And he said, “There remains yet the youngest, but he is keeping the sheep.” And Samuel said to Jesse, “Send and bring him; for we will not sit down until he comes here.” (Verses 6 – 11)
Would that I could have been there to hear the “small talk” as Samuel, Jesse, and the other elders waited until David arrived. I do not know how fair away they were from where the sheep were kept. But even more than a few minutes would have been awkward. For surely it had become apparent what the purpose of this visit was. Samuel fearful that Saul would find out what was going on. Jesse wondering and then suspecting what was going on. And the elders of Bethlehem wondering what Samuel wanted of them. Yes, it would have been tense times.
“He sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, and had beautiful eyes, and was handsome. The LORD said, “Rise and anoint him; for this is the one.” Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the presence of his brothers; and the spirit of the LORD came mightily upon David from that day forward. Samuel then set out and went to Ramah.” (Verses 12 – 13)
There are two things that stand out to me in this passage of scripture. The first is that the Lord had told Samuel, “I have provided for myself a king . . .” Now I looked back over several previous chapters of I Samuel, and at first Saul seemed unlikely a king. He looked good, but was shy and unsure of himself. Over time he became more sure of himself and his abilities, until he became proud, too proud, and took it upon himself to determine the best course of action instead of seeking direction from the Lord or listening to Samuel’s advice. The people of Israel came to like Saul because he was everything they wanted from a king. But, and this is the puzzling part, the Lord pointed out Saul to Samuel. I would have thought that would be an instance of the Divine providing the Godself with a king. Does that mean that David was different from Saul?
The second is that the writer of I Samuel said, “. . . the Spirit of the LORD came mightily upon David . . . “ Does that mean that Saul did not have the Spirit of the Lord? And is that how the Divine provided the Godself with a king?
I ask myself these things because while none of us are kings (or queens), we are called and chosen by the Lord. And we can go terribly astray, as Saul did, and find ourselves outside of God’s grace and blessing as Saul did when he was stripped of his appointment as king. Or we can make mistakes and missteps, as David did, and yet still be a person after the Lord’s heart. Who will you be like, beloved reader? Saul or David? Shalom.

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

Feeding Our Hungry Hearts

Jesus came into a world that was full of hungry hearts (see previous post) to introduce us to the only thing that can feed those hungers. Jesus came to rescue us from the futile feeding frenzy of trying to feed ourselves on idols.
Throughout the Bible, we read story after story of people trying to find life outside of God. This is what the story of Adam and Eve is all about. Under the influence of the serpent, Eve embraced a deceptive, untrustworthy picture of God that caused her to stop trusting that God is the only source that can feed her heart. As a result, Eve was led believe that she could acquire life on her own.
This same story repeats itself today. Instead of relying on God to meet our needs, we try to meet them on our own. We all eat of the forbidden tree, just as Eve did.
The Bible calls this idolatry. Most modern westerners think that idolatry is about people worshiping a statue of some kind. But an idol is anything we treat as a god that we use to satisfy the hunger in our soul that only our Creator can satisfy. Such idols come in both religious and nonreligious forms.
Religious idolaters attempt to fill their hunger through religious activities they do or religious doctrines they believe, both of which they think will please their gods. Even when Christians try to get life from the rightness of their behaviors and beliefs instead of from God himself, they are guilty of idolatry.
Nonreligious idols come in the forms of sex, wealth, power—these seem to be the most prevalent. Others make idols of their nation, race, talents, looks, or fame. In fact, just about everything in the world is a potential idol, for just about anything can be used as a means of trying to fill our hunger.
Even if you manage to get what you are seeking through a specific idol, you know it’s just a matter of time before you lose it. There’s a multitude of competitors for the wealth, power, and fame you’ve acquired, and at some point they might gain an advantage over you. Even if you stay on top, you know it won’t last forever because age is never kind to idols.
What’s more, if your idols work, you know they do not completely satiate the hunger even while you enjoy them. The idols might distract us from the inner emptiness, but it never goes away.
The Bible calls this idolatry life in “the flesh.” It is full of anxiety, hopelessness, envy, strife, anger, and bitterness. The idolatrous world of “the flesh” is a competitive feeding frenzy of desperately hungry people trying to scarf up a morsel of fleeting worth from a limited number of idolatrous sources. Idolatry is at the root of most of the misery in the world.
Trace your own despair, anxiety, or bitterness back far enough, and more likely than not, you’ll discover there’s something other than God that you are clinging to as something to feed your hunger.
—Adapted from The Myth of a Christian Religion, pages 39-42
The post Feeding Our Hungry Hearts appeared first on Greg Boyd - ReKnew.

Syndicated from Greg Boyd – ReKnew

Season After Pentecost (Proper 5 [10]) – The Gospel Passage: Who is “family”?

“ . . . and the crowd came together again, so that they could not even eat. When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, “He has gone out of his mind.” (Mark 3:20-21)
I have always been slightly uncomfortable with this story of Jesus from the gospel of Mark – where Jesus confronts and is confronted by his family. I want to believe they came out of concern, thinking that the trials of the road and his ministry finally got to him.

“And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, “He has Beelzebul, and by the ruler of the demons he casts out demons.” And he called them to him, and spoke to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but his end has come. But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his property without first tying up the strong man; then indeed the house can be plundered.” (Verses 22 – 27)
I want to believe that they supported him and believed him, that their child/brother had a special calling from the Divine but being of mortal flesh and bone it had worn him down.
“Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”– for they had said, “He has an unclean spirit.” (Verses 28 – 30)
There have been times in my life when I felt at loose ends, and the middle did not feel like it was holding. My family has been there for me, supported me, believed in me, and comforted me. I want to believe that Jesus’ family was simply coming to be with him when the scribes and Pharisees, and others, were lined up against him. But the way Mark sets this story, it is hard to believe that. It almost seems, the way Mark tells the story, that his family were not there for support, but to rein him in.
So many times in the Testaments, New and Old, a portrait of the Lord God and Jesus Christ emerges is at odds with other descriptions and portraits. And as believer in the Triune Divinity, I have to consider all aspects.
“Then his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him. A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you.” And he replied, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” (Verses 31 – 33)
Is Jesus really rejecting his mother and brothers? Or is this a metaphor for the concept of a wider and broader description of who one’s family of faith is?
“And looking at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.” (Verses 34 – 35)
I said previously that my family has been a great support to me – my nuclear family, my family of origin, and my extended family. However, through friendships I have also found great support; and I think of those people often and they are like family to me. We have been through so much together, and I am sure before this life is over we will travel together down more rough roads where I bonds to help us along the way.
The family of faith is a family of blood – not the blood of genetics and chromosomes, but the blood of Jesus Christ. As Paul says, we are inheritors of grace and salvation, and if heirs then child of the Divine.
I have searched the gospels for signs that Jesus’ family turned away from him. But I find no evidence. I want to believe they were relieved and gratified that he had strong support and that he was of sound mind in their eyes. Just as my family, through bonds of origin/marriage and through the bonds of friendship, believe in me. Selah!

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

Season After Pentecost (Proper 5 [10]) – The Epistle Passage: Paul and I, when we agree

“But just as we have the same spirit of faith that is in accordance with scripture–“I believed, and so I spoke” –we also believe, and so we speak, because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus, and will bring us with you into his presence.” (II Corinthians 4:13 – 14)
Sometimes, not too often, but sometimes . . . . I feel like I have a great deal in common with Paul. I have been writing reflections on scripture and faith life for going to close to 20 years. And after that amount of time, writing about faith and writing to believers makes feel very close to other such writers. Now, Paul and I are not theologically the same people. I do not profess or espouse to rise to the level of Paul’s forceful writer. At least not forceful in the same way. But both Paul and I yearn to reach out through our writing to our readers. That Paul’s letters have endured for so long is testament (yes, New Testament) to their importance. What Paul was writing was new, never been heard before. I just follow in the theological footsteps of others – not necessarily looking to establish new insights but hoping to present spirituality and faith in an accessible way. So as I write . . .
“Yes, everything is for your sake, so that grace, as it extends to more and more people, may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God. So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal. For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” (Verses 15 to chapter 5 verse 1)
As I read the above verses, I realize that if Paul and I do not have parallel theologies, we do have similar outlooks on enough things that I feel at times he speaks. And I hope, through the Divine’s grace and mercy, that I do justice to Paul’s expressions of faith, love, and caring. Selah!

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

Season After Pentecost (Proper 4 [9]) – The Psalms Passage: Praise for the weekend and your Sabbath

“Sing aloud to God our strength; shout for joy to the God of Jacob.
Raise a song, sound the tambourine, the sweet lyre with the harp.
Blow the trumpet at the new moon, at the full moon, on our festal day.
For it is a statute for Israel, an ordinance of the God of Jacob.”  (Psalm 81:1 – 4)
I am awfully glad when the weekend comes. Sometimes the week goes slowly and each day drags on. Other weeks the days skip by and the weekend comes even before the week has worn me out – those a good weeks! The weekend is a repast from the week, and I savor it. But some weekends go quickly and I am plunged into a new week before I am ready.
I can appreciate celebrating “festal days”, days when burdens are set aside and there is time to savor life and living, family and the joy in being in relationship and fellowship. While I may not sound a tambourine or strum a lyre or harp, and I have no trumpet to blow at any moon, I do admit to raising up a song or two and my heart shots for joy. In my own way, each weekend is a celebration. Part of that celebrations is writing reflections on the Gospel and Psalm passages.
“He made it a decree in Joseph, when he went out over the land of Egypt. I hear a voice I had not known: “I relieved your shoulder of the burden; your hands were freed from the basket. In distress you called, and I rescued you; I answered you in the secret place of thunder; I tested you at the waters of Meribah. Selah” (Verses 6 – 7)
Many weeks I feel tested; my job is not always easy, and my health can fluctuate and fail. I run out of energy, and I doubt myself. I need to remind myself to place my faith in the Divine, and trust in the providence, abundance, and benevolence of the Lord God.
“Hear, O my people, while I admonish you; O Israel, if you would but listen to me!
There shall be no strange god among you; you shall not bow down to a foreign god.
I am the LORD your God, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt. Open your mouth wide and I will fill it.” (Verses 8 – 10)
“There shall be no strange god among you” . . . . You may say, “I do not worship strange gods nor do I have homage to them.” And that may be true, from an Old Testament perspective. But if you look at those verses with New Testament eyes, you should ask yourself, “Do I give things more importance than worshiping the Lord and living as Jesus Christ instructed his followers?” Do the pressures and demands of the week overtake your faith in the Lord? Do you “work” and “toil” on the Sabbath at things that do not bring live and save yourself and/or others? Do you give your Sabbath its due? Do you trust in the Lord, and trust that the Lord will fill your needs? The Divine stands ready to hear your prayers, and grant your truest petitions and intercessions.
Take out your tambourine of joy and shake it. String and strum your lyre and harp of peace. Blow your trumpet of testimony to the Lord’s abundance. And sing a song to praise the Lord God for the deliverance you have been given. Celebrate the festal day of the Lord! Selah!

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

Season After Pentecost (Proper 4 [9]) – The Gospel Passage: Choosing between legality and compassion . . . all on a Sunday morning

“One Sabbath he was going through the grain fields; and as they made their way his disciples began to pluck heads of grain. The Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?” And he said to them, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need of food? He entered the house of God, when Abiathar was high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and he gave some to his companions.” Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the Sabbath; so the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:23 – 28)
It takes a vivid imagination to see plucking grains and rolling them in your hands as harvesting and threshing! But that is exactly what the Pharisees were accusing Jesus and his disciples of. Or maybe the Pharisees were just looking for ways to discredit Jesus and his disciples. Jesus several times accused the Pharisees and other Jewish rulers of enforcing the letter of the law but ignoring the spirit of the law.
The hardhearted will enforce a rule, and by doing so will cause more harm than good. The compassionate heart will abide by the rules but allow the rule of love to dictate the enforcement of all other rules.
“Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there who had a withered hand. They watched him to see whether he would cure him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse him. And he said to the man who had the withered hand, “Come forward.” Then he said to them, “Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent. He looked around at them with anger; he was grieved at their hardness of heart and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. The Pharisees went out and immediately conspired with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him.” (Chapter 3, verses 1 – 6)
It is said for every rule there is an exception. For every law (or most every law) there is a time when the law must be set aside in order to do the caring, compassionate, and righteous thing. Those who cling to the law when the law is doing harm are more guilty than any lawbreaker.
May a compassionate heart rule your body, mind, and spirit beloved reader! Selah!

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

Season After Pentecost (Proper 4 [9]) – The Epistles Passage: Preserving the treasure, and not clinging to the unimportant.

“For we do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake. For it is the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us.” (II Corinthians 4:5 – 7)
“Treasure in clay jars” . . . . in a culture that did not have refrigeration nor vaults, it was hard to preserve something over time and be able to access. So, you used what was at hand. At hand were clay jars that could be sealed and thereby preserve what is instead. Not that Paul would have advocated keeping the knowledge of God and Jesus Christ locked up and not used, but that it was valuable enough that it should be treasured and protected.
While the gospel is to be valued and protected, cherished and used wisely, Paul seems less concerned about what happens to him personally.
“We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies. For while we live, we are always being given up to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may be made visible in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you.” (Verses 8 – 12)
If the treasure that is glory and knowledge of the Divine, and is to be preserved, then human life is to be poured our from that jars that are our human bodies; and poured out for the sake of that very same glory and knowledge. That’s the thing when you know what needs to be protected and preserved is – you can use up other resources that are expendable because the important things are gathered up safely. Paul in another place talks about gathering up treasure in heaven; the same sort of metaphor, just a different gathering method.
What do you value, beloved reader? What is important to you? What do you preserve and what do you expend freely? The story of Paul and his journeys is a good example of expending all of one’s body, mind, and spirit. That should be a familiar trio because that is how we are to love the Divine.
May you, beloved reader, preserve in safe places that which is truly important, and for all other things put them into service for the Lord. Selah!

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

Season After Pentecost (Proper 4 [9]) – The Old Testament Passage: Taking time out to rest, reflect, and praise!

“Observe the Sabbath day and keep it holy, as the LORD your God commanded you. Six days you shall labor and do all your work. But the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God; you shall not do any work–you, or your son or your daughter, or your male or female slave, or your ox or your donkey, or any of your livestock, or the resident alien in your towns, so that your male and female slave may rest as well as you.” ( Deuteronomy 5:12-14)
The writer of Deuteronomy was obviously not a woman. Especially not a Anabaptist/Mennonite woman. Sunday/Sabbath was the day a large noon day meal would be prepared, and company invited over. Granted, no housework or gardening was done, but meal preparation and clean up was a major task. I guess, though, that was not deemed “work”. I remember my mother being adamant about not going to a restaurant on Sundays because that meant that she was making someone else “work”. But meal preparation in her own home was not work – I guess. In the ancient Jewish culture all meal preparation took place BEFORE the Sabbath and the “work” of the meal was serving it.
Maybe the crux of this issues is how “work” was and is defined. Jesus did not define work as the saving of someone; he healed and ministered on the Sabbath. Preachers and ministers “work” on the Sabbath also. I have heard of some ministering people who take Monday off from their ministerial labors so as to have a day of rest, and focus on relaxation. However, (reflecting back on my opening statements) I doubt preparing a large meal was “relaxing”. Perhaps that comes under the heading a saving and healing work!
“Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm; therefore the LORD your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.” (Verse 15)
What it seems to come down to is this – the Lord God commanded a day of rest and also saved the Hebrews from the slavery of Egypt, so the commandment was followed and heeded as it was best interpreted. My mother has loosened up a bit on her prohibitions against working or having others work on the Sabbath. And as a mother of three children I can tell you the early years of parenting were 7 days a week and 24 hours a day of work! It is important to rest though, to take time out of a busy schedule to appreciate the beauty and the people around you. To set aside time to tend to your relationship with the Divine. The whole purpose of Sabbath time might be to simply enjoy life and to give praise and thanks for the blessings we have received. So if you have not made time to do that in the other six days of the week, maybe on your seventh day/Sabbath day you should make time for that! Selah!

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

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