Category: Spirituality

Season of Advent 2018 Year C – Second Sunday: The Gospel Passage – The Corporate Turns Personal

“In the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was ruler of Galilee, and his brother Philip ruler of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias ruler of Abilene, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. He went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah, “The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.'” ( Luke 3:1-6)
Beloved reader, the faith that the Lord God Abraham to was never meant to be a group experience. If it was, the Lord God would have called to the town where Abraham lived, or where some other group lived. But the Lord God called Abraham, singular. Yes, Abraham brought his wife and some family members, but the Lord God talked to Abraham. Promised Abraham he would be the start of God’s nation. Not Abraham’s neighborhood, but Abraham singular. Isaac had an individual relationship with the Lord God. Jacob had an individual relationship with the Lord God. Joseph had an individual relationship with Lord God. Then the Lord God called out the chosen people from Egypt, but through an individual, Moses. And it was from that group of people that the group experience of having the Lord God started. Originally, however, it was the Divine connecting to individuals.
And when the Lord God determined to start again, the Divine chose an individual, John the Baptist. John the Baptist did not preach that the Jewish faith must repent, but each person must repent of their own sins. That is probably one of the reasons that John might not have been popular with the Jewish leaders. Take note that “the words of the prophet Isaiah” says “every” – every valley and every mountain and hill, that every [implied] crooked will be made straight and every [implied] rough way made smooth. And that all individual [implied] flesh shall see salvation. Salvation through an individual.
Paul, as you may remember from Hebrews went to great lengths to promote Jesus as the High Priest, superior to the group of high priests that the Jews/Israelites had. The Anabaptists (which is my professed faith belief) established the priesthood of all believers, meaning that each individual believer acts as their own intermediary, or more precisely every individual believer relates directly to/with the Divine and not through anyone else. I am not saying that the Anabaptist had everything right in their beliefs but on the topic of group faith versus individual faith, they rightly saw that the individual needs to establish their own relationship with the Lord God the Divine.
So, here we are coming to the end of the second week of Advent. It may seem like we have taken a circuitous route through corporate faith – maybe a journey that you might feel was not needed. But I felt it important to show you, beloved reader, that the coming of Advent is the coming of a “new” way of relating to the Divine, in comparison to how the Jewish people had previously seen faith. It may explain why for the Jews the birth of a Jesus was seen as a seemingly unimportant birth of an infant/individual. And because it was so new that it had to be heralded by, well, heralds from on high. But we will get to that in later weeks.
I started this week by focusing on the Old Testament where it talks about nations changing, the Israelite/Judahites nation, to be precise. I said it would not be accomplished by the nation itself but by the Lord God. Baruch said it would be the whole nation that were descendants of the called and chosen people. It could have been, if the entire Jewish nation recognized it as such. I believe part of the reason that the Jews as a corporate group did not recognize Jesus was because his ministry was a one-to-one relationship. Maybe if they had remembered their history better, ie individualized, they would have recognized Jesus as the individually oriented Messiah.
We celebrate Advent as a group, beloved reader, and earlier this week I exhorted to revel in that group experience. But is at its center Advent can and should be an individual experience. Because the baby Jesus was born for each one of us. And that was and is how nations are changed! Selah!

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

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Season of Advent 2018 Year C – Second Sunday: The Old Testament Passage – Putting on and taking off a national identity

“Take off the garment of your sorrow and affliction, O Jerusalem, and put on forever the beauty of the glory from God.
Put on the robe of the righteousness that comes from God; put on your head the diadem of the glory of the Everlasting; for God will show your splendor everywhere under heaven.
For God will give you evermore the name, “Righteous Peace, Godly Glory.” (Baruch 8:1 – 4)
A brief search concerning the book of Baruch will quickly show you that there is much controversy about the book. Who wrote it? When was it written? What time period was it written about? But I do not care much about figuring out the answers. What intrigues me is the concept of putting on a new national identity. The writer of the book of Baruch (who ever and whenever that person might be) talking not about individuals being re-cast but a whole nation. Jerusalem was comprised of hundreds (maybe thousands?) of people who for the most part professed the same type of perspective and outlook. Judaism had long ago established an exclusiveness that kept the national identity from changing much. What was the lot of one person was probably the lot of that person’s neighbor. Remember too that Judaism was based on the twelve descendants of Jacob and those families carried on the traditions from each succeeding generation. So for the Jewish nation to change as a nation from sorrow and affliction to splendor, righteousness, peace and Godliness would mean a remaking of every person in Jerusalem. It was a promise and prediction of . . . . biblical proportions!
“Arise, O Jerusalem, stand upon the height; look toward the east, and see your children gathered from west and east at the word of the Holy One, rejoicing that God has remembered them.
For they went out from you on foot, led away by their enemies; but God will bring them back to you, carried in glory, as on a royal throne.
For God has ordered that every high mountain and the everlasting hills be made low and the valleys filled up, to make level ground, so that Israel may walk safely in the glory of God. The woods and every fragrant tree have shaded Israel at God’s command.” (Verses 5 – 8)
Not only is writer of Baruch foretelling that the nation of Jerusalem will be remade, but those who were taken from families and neighborhoods will be returned. At least that is the overt promise. But as I said above, it is not the individual persons who will be returned and remade. It is the nation of Jerusalem, the re-establishment of the identity of the Israel nation. It is, beloved reader, a group identity rather than a collection of individuals. Moreover, it the group identity that is washed clean and presented as unsullied and unmarred.
“For God will lead Israel with joy, in the light of his glory, with the mercy and righteousness that come from him.” (Verse 9)
Our modern society is so taken up with individuals, and each individual’s identity recognized and honored. I am not saying that is a wrong or bad thing. But the writer of Baruch is in essence saying, do not mourn the individuals that were lost. Have hope because the nation of Jerusalem and Israel will at some time in the future be re-established and be better than ever.
According to the understandings of Israel’s and Judah’s demise, it was their inability and unwillingness to follow Yahweh’s laws and guidance. Presumably, according to the writer of the book of Baruch, this will be remedied by the work of the Divine. What once was will be changed; not by the actions of any one person, or even by a group, nor even by the actions of the whole nation. The Lord God will just do it, and all of Jerusalem and Israel will be changed.
What I am trying to say, beloved reader, but am reluctant to say forthright – is that the personality of a nation will be changed. Think of Russia during the Cold War years. Think of Germany during WWII. Think of England/Britain in the 1800’s. Think of India/China/Japan in the previous century. It is the same thing concerning Africa. All of these “personalities” were not based on individuals but on the group identity – for right or wrong. Can you, beloved reader, think of nations that have taken on a corporate/national personality? For right or for wrong?
Now, with the concept of the changing of the personality of a nation, let us look at the other Old Testament passage for this week.
“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)
When we think about the refiner’s fire, we may picture individuals being tested and recast as something better. But it is more likely in these passages that the Lord God as the refiner will remold a whole group – the descendants of Levi who were the priestly tribe. Then the purified priestly tribe will be sanctified to offer up sacrifices for the nation and usher in the change on a national level. Our focus on the individual does not always fit in with the way scripture was written. But that is not to say that focusing on the individual is wrong, nor that we have misinterpret New Testament theology. I hope at some later point speak to that change. But this week, beloved reader, it would seem that our focus needs to be on large groups and not the individual. So let us stick together, holding one another in our thoughts and prayers. Selah!

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

Season of Advent 2018 Year C – First Sunday: The Psalms Passage – In praise of compassion & goodness

“To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul.
O my God, in you I trust; do not let me be put to shame; do not let my enemies exult over me.
Do not let those who wait for you be put to shame; let them be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous.” (Psalm 25:1 – 3)
I have been thinking lately about the choices we make – specifically how we chose to interact and treat each other. Maybe it is the time of year, but I have been thinking and pondering about how we relate to the people around us. And it is a choice, beloved reader. We are not “accidentally” mean and callous to others. It is not a “slip of the lip” when we talk in unkind and disrespectful ways to each other. And it is not more difficult to chose to be kind than it is to chose to be mean.
“Make me to know your ways, O LORD; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth, and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all day long.” (Verses 4 – 5)
It is not even a matter of choosing to be Godly. Even though I am strong a believer in living faithfully and living a Christian life spiritually and morally, I do not think you need to be Godly to be kind, gracious and caring. I have known non-believers who were more kind and caring than some Christians.
This psalm passage admittedly does not echo where my thoughts are today. That is not to say this psalm is contrary to my theme. But neither is the psalmist and I speaking from the same perspective. The writer of the psalm (King David) is asking the Lord God to protect him against those who are set against and to teach him how to live rightly. In the next set of verses King David will also ask the Lord God for mercy and forgiveness.
“Be mindful of your mercy, O LORD, and of your steadfast love, for they have been from of old. Do not remember the sins of my youth or my transgressions; according to your steadfast love remember me, for your goodness’ sake, O LORD!” (Verses 6 – 7)
I have myself pleaded for the Divine’s mercy and restitution when I have gone astray. I guess where I am coming from today is that we can chose to act in such a way that we are in accord with the “ways” of the Lord God.
“Good and upright is the LORD; therefore he instructs sinners in the way. He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way. All the paths of the LORD are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant and his decrees.” (Verses 8 – 10)
It is my belief, beloved reader, that if you fail often enough to live as the Lord God the Divine instructs and guides – you will eventually learn what you have to do, how you have to act, and what you should say. You CAN learn these things. Then, you will have to chose if you are going to do those things. As we continue in the journey of Advent I am hoping and praying that you, beloved reader, will make choices of caring and being compassionate. If you do, I believe you will find the season of Advent filled with love and joy. Selah!

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

Season of Advent 2018 Year C – First Sunday: The Gospel Passage – Watching the “times” & “signs” come about

“There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.” (Luke 21:25 – 26)
Nature does some strange things – eclipses of the sun and moon, solar flares, shooting stars and meteors. How are we to know what are “signs” and what are natural but unique phenomena. In the past predictions of the end times and portents of doom have been begun and tied to nature “malfunctioning”. So far, as far as I know, the world has not ended yet.
Nations rise and fall, governments act rashly and go to war one with another – one nation against one nation, groups of nations rising up against other groups of nations, and one nation attacking or being attacked by a collection of other nations. How are we to know what are “signs” and what are results of antagonism, aggression, and violence?
And how are we to know if/when the “powers of the heavens” are shaken if we can’t find heaven on any map know to humanity? All in all, the signs that have had humanity fainting and fearing, and foreboding have not result in global apocalypse or rapture.
“Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in a cloud’ with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” (Verses 27 – 28)
It seems to me that each generation in humanity had defined for itself what are the fearful and foreboding signs. Yes there have been individuals who have raised their voices and have yelled “Beware the times!” But so far, while the times are fear producing, the Son of Man has not come back to earth in the way predicted.
“Then he told them a parable: “Look at the fig tree and all the trees; as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.
“Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day catch you unexpectedly, like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth. Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.” (Verses 29 – 36)
What do we do with these passages? There are more questions than answers. Which “generation”? What does the term “pass away” mean for a whole generation? It sounds like the writer of the gospel of Luke is telling his readers/listeners it will be in their lifetimes, and they need to be on guard for these things. It is not a warning to pass on to their children, the next generation, but the generation of the gospel of Luke. Yet, here we are.
And . . . if this passage is one weighted down with worry, fret, and warning . . . . what is it doing in the texts for the first week of Advent?! I don’t have any surprising or pithy answer to my questions. No turning things on their head and seeing it in a new light. The commentators I read did not seem to have answers either, but confined themselves to explaining the language used.
Perhaps the next question should be “What does it mean if/when the kingdom of God is at hand?” For if these things have come to pass within the generation it was spoken to/written for, then the kingdom of God was very near them. What then does it mean to live so close to the kingdom of God?
What if it means this? We know that the Holy Spirit, the Counselor and Adviser, came upon the disciples and changed them in ways they could not understand before. Gave them strength, endurance, stamina, and faith that they never had before, nor that they could have. Maybe the kingdom of God is not a physical intervention into our world but a spiritual generator set up just outside of physical boundaries of our world sending energy and spiritual wisdom to us.
I don’t know what the gospel writer of Luke meant, or how/if Jesus’ words were given meanings that had more to do with the times and the hopes of the people and gospel writers who lived then. We take words that were written so long ago under circumstances that are so far from our own. And we expect them to translate. Seamlessly no less!
We are coming to the end of the first week of Advent. Maybe the kingdom of God is nearer than we think. I can not say for 100% what than means. What I do know is that if the Lord God the Divine is coming nearer, we better be ready! Selah!

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

Season of Advent 2018 Year C – First Sunday: The Epistle Passage – A time of blessing and well wishing

“How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy that we feel before our God because of you? Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you face to face and restore whatever is lacking in your faith.”(1 Thessalonians 3:9)
It took some time to find my entry point for this passage. Paul undoubtedly felt a warmth and paternal care for the people of Thessalonica. At first I thought Paul felt there was something lacking in their faith that needed to be remedied. But after some thinking and pondering, what I realized was that Paul desired to make their faith as complete as possible. Not a paternal authority correcting them, but a caring father desiring what was best for them. At that point it was an easy step to see it as an “Advent” wish for a more joyful future of faith for them. And is that not part of Advent? The wish and desire to bestow something extra on another? Paul’s prayer for the Thessalonians could be seen as a blessing for their future.
“Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus direct our way to you.
And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we abound in love for you.
And may he so strengthen your hearts in holiness that you may be blameless before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.” (Verses 10 – 13)
Paul says again he earnestly desires to see them. And he desires them to love each other as he loves them. And further that they may be ready for then the Lord Jesus returns to earth. Now we know that Jesus did not return; but perhaps they were ready when death took them from this world. And in a way Paul did see them again when they were reunited in heaven. As to the love they were to have for each other that was equal to the love Paul had for them, we do not know. Loving one’s fellow believer is hard enough; loving those who are not of your faith circle or tradition is an even greater stretch. But, that is the calling of Advent and Christmas – to love one another. We talked about that yesterday.
As is so often the case when Paul prays, he prays what I would pray myself. That my words may find their way to all beloved readers, whatever your/their faith traditions would be. That my beloved readers would show the care and concern to others that I feel for all of you who, although nameless to me, are still beloved to me. And that you may be ready, or made ready for this Advent & Christmas season! Selah and Shalom!

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

Season After Pentecost (Proper 29[34]) – The Psalm Passage: Time to stop reflecting and start to act

“O LORD, remember in David’s favor all the hardships he endured; how he swore to the LORD and vowed to the Mighty One of Jacob, “I will not enter my house or get into my bed; I will not give sleep to my eyes or slumber to my eyelids, until I find a place for the LORD, a dwelling place for the Mighty One of Jacob.” We heard of it in Ephrathah; we found it in the fields of Jaar. “Let us go to his dwelling place; let us worship at his footstool.” (Psalm 1 – 7)
King David had, when he first had secured the throne, expressed the desire to build a house for the Ark of the Covenant and for the Lord God Yahweh to reside it. It was not to be, but King David desired it greatly. King David did not just muse upon it or imagine how it might have been. He gathered treasures and building materials (if the commentators are to be believed) and made plans. His son King Solomon actually completed the Temple but it was David who first sparked the idea and passed its importance down to his son.
“Rise up, O LORD, and go to your resting place, you and the ark of your might. Let your priests be clothed with righteousness, and let your faithful shout for joy. For your servant David’s sake do not turn away the face of your anointed one.
The LORD swore to David a sure oath from which he will not turn back: “One of the sons of your body I will set on your throne. If your sons keep my covenant and my decrees that I shall teach them, their sons also, forevermore, shall sit on your throne.” (Verses 8 – 12)
There comes a time to set aside wishing, thinking, and pondering; there comes a time to take action. I realized, beloved reader, looking back on the past two weeks that I have continued the theme of pondering inadvertently. In one week’s time I wrote to weeks’ worth of commentary so that I would have a week free to tend to other matters. One week flowed into the next in my thinking and I did not insert a break into my considerations of the passages. That is sometimes how it is when we think, muse, and ponder. Time passes by and we do not take action. Again if the commentators are to be believed, David spent much of his kingship planning out a “House for the Lord”, what building materials there should be and how it would be furnished. It would explain how early in his kingship that Solomon was able to build the temple if his father had done the planning work and accumulating of materials. Solomon was a thinker and a philosopher. His father King David was a doer. In any project it is good to have both. And both types of leadership, if done under the direction and guidance of the Lord, are acceptable to the Divine.
“For the LORD has chosen Zion; he has desired it for his habitation: “This is my resting place forever; here I will reside, for I have desired it. I will abundantly bless its provisions; I will satisfy its poor with bread. Its priests I will clothe with salvation, and its faithful will shout for joy. There I will cause a horn to sprout up for David; I have prepared a lamp for my anointed one. His enemies I will clothe with disgrace, but on him, his crown will gleam.” (Verses 13 – 18)
Having completed this last commentary and scheduled it to appear at its proper time, I will be resting for a week and completing other tasks that need to be done. My plan is to write something current of Thanksgiving, as a summary and celebration if my work and plans for the coming week (real time) are seen to fruition. It is my hope and prayer that the ponderings I have done in the past few weeks and the actions I will take in the coming week will result in the outcome I desire. I wish and pray for the same thing for you beloved reader. Shalom and Selah!

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

Season After Pentecost (Proper 29[34]) – The Gospel Passage: Jesus invites Pilate to reflect

“Then Pilate entered the headquarters again, summoned Jesus, and asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?” Pilate replied, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me. What have you done?” (John 18:33 – 35)
I was curious about verse 35 and Pilate’s question. Some commentators say the Pilate is insulted by the question, that anyone would think he is a “slave Jew.” Other commentators believe he is asserting his independence from Jewish thinking and influence, and he will judge the matter without prejudice or influence. In either case, Jesus’ question prompts Pilate to look himself and his involvement in the proceedings.
“Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.” Pilate asked him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.” (Verses 36 – 37)
Jesus invites Pilate to further reflect on what makes a king, and what power does a king command. And how long or short a king might be in power based on the circumstances. Okay, so admittedly one can interpret and imbue at great deal into Pilate’s and Jesus’ statements, questions, and answers. Maybe Pilate is not a thinker or philosopher. Maybe he is just a politician looking to solve problems and up-rises. And if Pilate does not take up Jesus’ invitation to reflect that does not mean we should not.
What is the nature of power? How do you wield it with integrity and honor? How long should power last? Can you make it last? When should power give way to submission? More pondering – what is the nature of truth? Is there different types of truth? Is truth relative? How does power and truth connect and interact? The questions, reflections, and ponderings could go on. That is one of the reasons I like pondering – taking a question or situation and looking at it from all sides and angles. I would invite you, beloved reader, to ponder will and let truths arise from sincere pondering. Because, beloved reader, it is after pondering truths that the nature of true and lasting power can come. Selah!

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

Season After Pentecost Thanksgiving Day 2018: The Old Testament, Gospel & Psalm Passages – Raising up thanksgiving to the Divine

“Do not fear, O soil; be glad and rejoice, for the LORD has done great things!” (Joel 2:21)
I am very late in writing this commentary posting. And writing it very late at night/early morning. My second round of pies are in the oven and I am waiting for them to be done. So while I wait, I thought I would sit down and collect my thoughts. They are very scattered. I might mention, as I hinted above, I writing in “real time” which means whenever I get this written, it will be posted. No neat and tidy timing of 30 minutes past a certain hour. I might also add, I am exhausted.
As I thought about writing this, one thought came back to my mind over and over – all the things I have to be thankful for. And the things I am not thankful for. Actually, the two are quite similar.
“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. The threshing floors shall be full of grain, the vats shall overflow with wine and oil. “ (Verses 22 – 24)
Last year around this time I had gotten word I had been hired for a job. It was a long nine months of job searching. While I did not start until after Thanksgiving, the days was breathed in relief that soon I would start working ago and be able to afford to buy the necessities of life. This year I was not dependent on the benevolence of anyone (except the Divine) for buying the essentials of the Thanksgiving meal, and a few extras!
“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.” (Verse 25)
But it also means I am working again, and wearing myself out. Last year the Thanksgiving preparations were made with plenty of time and I got to bed early. This year I am up late and was already worn out by the time I started. I guess you have to “suffer” for some blessings!
“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.”
But I really cannot complain much, or more precisely should not. I really do like my job and the people I work with. In the midst of the struggle of daily work and long work weeks, it is good to have a job!
“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?” ( Matthew 6:25 – 27)
The other good/bad element of my life is my health. Yes, I was healthy enough to make the delicious pies for Thanksgiving. And will be healthy enough to join my family around the table. But my health has also become a worry. I had let a few hints drop in the past weeks that my health has had another set back but I have not been forthright about what is going on. Now that plans are set in motion, I am ready to say more. Beloved reader, I have a rare form of skin cancer.
I had written a week of posts well in advance so I would have the time to travel to learn the treatment options. It turns out the best treatment option is here in the city I live in. I will be starting radiation treatment in the next few weeks. I have learned quite a bit about the process and therapy, but still there are some unknowns. Chief among them (at least for me) is whether the radiation treatment will work. In a very short time my list of worries shifted dramatically. And while I am thankful that my health has been relatively stable up to this point, I am becoming aware of a whole other level of worry about my health. And as is so often the case, other worries same to find when placed side by side with this new development.
“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. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Verses 28 -33)
I am not ruling out that this may just be a brief chapter in my health history. I am very ready to believe that the therapy will completely cure me and that there will be no recurrence or lasting ill effects. My faith is not shaken, nor do I doubt the goodness of the Divine.
“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.
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.” (Psalm 126)

I have always believed that what comes my way prepares me for what tasks, purpose, and mission the Divine has for me. Great blessings may come from this time. And I am prepared to see the good, embrace the struggles, and keep my faith firm. While I come to this Thanksgiving season of 2018 with a whole different set of circumstances than last year, I still give thanks for what I have received, and I give thanks the endurance and strength to see my way through the challenges before me.
May this Thanksgiving season find you, beloved reader, in the most favorable of circumstances. And if not, may the Divine be with you day by day as your journey through what is before you. Selah!

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

Season After Pentecost (Proper 29[34]) – The Old Testament Passage: King David reflects

I had an interesting conversation with my daughter the evening I sat down to write this; I am actually writing it several weeks ahead. This week is the week of Thanksgiving and we were talking about how we were going to handle Thanksgiving this year in light of the possibility that I would not be “up to” making much. You see, last week I had two surgeries – on Nov 13th & 15th. And I had not idea how much recovery time I would need, and if I was capable of “pulling off” a Thanksgiving meal. In the same vein I thought, during the week of surgery how capable am I going to be in writing my commentaries? Just as I am planning ahead for Thanksgiving, so should I plan ahead in writing. So, with that in mind I looked at the Old Testament passage, since that is a by tradition the passage I start with each week.
“Now these are the last words of David: The oracle of David, son of Jesse, the oracle of the man whom God exalted, the anointed of the God of Jacob, the favorite of the Strong One of Israel:
The spirit of the LORD speaks through me, his word is upon my tongue. The God of Israel has spoken, the Rock of Israel has said to me: One who rules over people justly, ruling in the fear of God, is like the light of morning, like the sun rising on a cloudless morning, gleaming from the rain on the grassy land.”(2 Samuel 23:1 – 4)

We are told by the writer of II Samuel that these are the final thoughts of David as he looks back over his reign. Not so much the end of his reign when sadness and tragedy had marked his life but more as a summary of what he hoped to and did accomplish. These are not so much words from King David as a personal reflection but rather inspired what David has seen happen as a result of his efforts under/with God’s support. It is, in short, a shiny reflection on the good stuff.
“Is not my house like this with God? For he has made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and secure. Will he not cause to prosper all my help and my desire?” (Verse 5)
Above, beloved reader, you read that correctly. Some time back (and even further back from you are reading this) I talked about my new diagnosis. It is because of that I am having two surgeries just one day apart. And I am admittedly (at this writing) quite concerned. Of course, by the time you read this I will have already had the surgery and will be (very hopefully) recovering. So . . . . well . . . . I would like to claim David’s words for my self. The assurance and confidence that David, I would like that. The security and knowledge that God will keep me and under take for me – I would like that. The final two verses, however, I will leave to King David.
“But the godless are all like thorns that are thrown away; for they cannot be picked up with the hand;
to touch them one uses an iron bar or the shaft of a spear. And they are entirely consumed in fire on the spot.” (Verses 6 – 7)
In David’s time those who did not follow Yahweh were outside of any grace and blessing. Consequently what happened to them, they deserved. Interestingly, the same perspective was held for those who did at one time follow Yahweh but apparently “fell” away. I am reminded of the kings that came after David, and the endless periods of slavery and captivity that the Israelites and Judahites suffered. It is good, in a sense, that King David did not know what befell his line between his death and the coming of the Messiah.
May you, beloved reader, now the same sort of contentment and prosperity that David had for most of his life. Selah!

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

Season After Pentecost (Proper 28[33]) – The Psalm Passage: Reflecting on the psalm and the protection of the Divine

“Protect me, O God, for in you I take refuge.” (Psalm 16:1)
This a good start for the companion piece to the predictions in the book of Daniel. Having read the predictions in the book of Daniel, I think I would ask for protection too!
“I say to the LORD, “You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.” As for the holy ones in the land, they are the noble, in whom is all my delight.” (Verses 2 – 3)
As this passage continues, the clarity of the passage and the message that the psalmist wants to give becomes garbled and confusing – not because I say so, beloved reader, but because the big name commentators identify it as so. It seems like a simple little passage. The psalmist declares that the Divine is his refuge and has stated it publicly. Apart from the Divine the psalmist has little to commend or recommend of himself. The holy, however, he looks up to and assumes that the Divine, the Lord God has lead and guided them to a good life.
“Those who choose another god multiply their sorrows; their drink offerings of blood I will not pour out or take their names upon my lips. The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; I have a goodly heritage. “ (Verses 4 – 6)
The passage becomes clearer as it goes on. Those who do not follow the Divine, the Lord God are going to have a tough time. I (meaning the psalmist) am not going to follow their example nor value what they do. I (meaning again the psalmist) chose the Lord God, and it has resulted in good things. This reflects back on the psalmist declaring that apart from the Lord God nothing is worthwhile.
“I bless the LORD who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me. I keep the LORD always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved. Therefore my heart is glad, and my soul rejoices; my body also rests secure. For you do not give me up to Sheol, or let your faithful one see the Pit. You show me the path of life. In your presence there is fullness of joy; in your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” (Verses 7 – 11)
The protection that the psalmist has found is not so much because the Lord God has shielded him from misfortune etc, but because he (the psalmist) has made good choices based on the laws and tenets of the faith the psalmist espouses and follows. If we think of King David as the psalmist we can see that when David followed the Lord God, good and pleasant things happened. When he strayed (as he did) that is when things became not so well with him. The same could be said of Daniel in Babylon. He stayed the course of faith in the Lord despite temptation and persecution for his faith.
What about us beloved reader? Where have the lines fallen for us – for you and for me?
Do we feel protected and close to the Lord God, enclosed in the Divine’s Right Hand? The psalmist is telling us it is by making good, wise, and holy/Godly decisions that we feel this protection.
There are several things this philosophy and belief does not take into account, not the least of which is the acts of the unholy against us. I am sure you can think of other things, beloved reader, that mar the feeling of protection. Quite honestly, I think the psalmist is being a little optimistic. What is true, however, is that the things – traits and issues – that supersede this life on earth are protected for us and within us by the Divine Lord God. And maybe that is what the psalmist is meaning.
I do hope and prayer, beloved reader, that you are safe and protected in the Lord God; and that those near and dear to you are protected also. And may you find a firm and immovable refuge in the Divine Lord God. Selah!

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

Season After Pentecost (Proper 28[33]) – The Old Testament Passage: Reflecting on predictions from the past and what they may say about the present

Again for this week I had some tough choices to make. I could have looked again at passages from Samuel, where Hannah is considering the disappoint of not having a child. That seems to be somewhat of a theme amongst women of the bible, not being able to bear children or losing children. Sarah (who gave birth when very old), Hannah, Naomi (through the death of her two sons), Elizabeth (who also only gave birth in her old age), Rachel (whose sister Leah seemed to out do her in children); you see the pattern. These women had to depend on the Lord’s timing while those about them gave birth easily and often. But, I digress.
The choice was between treading old ground, or exploring something new. I chose the new. Actually, it is old . . . and confusing.
“At that time Michael, the great prince, the protector of your people, shall arise. There shall be a time of anguish, such as has never occurred since nations first came into existence. But at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone who is found written in the book. Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.“ (Daniel 12:1-3)
The book of Daniel is of two parts – simply put. The first part is the story of Daniel and his friends who were taken captive and brought to the Babylonian court of King Nebuchadnezzar. This is where Daniel and his friends chose the simple diet of their youth and homeland, and become stand out servants in the court, and rise to important ranks. But they would also have their convictions tested and their devotion to Yahweh challenged. They would win, of course. But it was a dangerous time for Daniel and his friends.
However the section for today is from the second part of the book of Daniel (starting in chapter seven) where Daniel starts to have visions that are interpreted for him by heavenly emissaries, and secrets are revealed to him that must remain secret. (How they came to be found in the book of Daniel if they were to be secret is not exactly explained.) These visions and secrets are said to be predictions of the kingdoms that would come after the kingdom/time that Daniel was currently living in. There is some conjectures as to whether these were predictions that would come to pass soon after the time of Daniel or whether they were predictions for much later ages. What does come through is that the Lord God the Divine will protect those who are mindful and remember the Lord God and worship faithfully. Those who do not will be severely punished.
While this explanation sounds plausible and in line with Judea-Christian traditions, the descriptions of the visions themselves seem to formed from fearsome and unnatural figures and events. They are quite outside of normal experience. Perhaps that is what makes them so compelling. And as I reflect though on the events and persons of our modern times, it seems to me they are outside of what has been normal experience and behaviors as well. Who would have predicted some twenty years ago what is happening in the current time. I remember back when I was a small child what was predicted that life would be like in the 21st century. Very little of it has come true, or at least not in the way it was thought it would. That’s the thing about predictions from the past – it is hard to realign them into the context of our present. And by extension of that, unfortunately, it is hard to place the concepts of the Divine from the past into our present. What were Christian principles in the past seemed to have be redefined or re-written for our present times.
Oh my . . . . I really have strayed far from where I started just one page up. Old Testament predictions have a tendency to make me do that. I am not sure I can back track myself out either. Maybe I should have stuck with Hannah in I Samuel. But since I did not, let us see where the week will take us. For now, beloved reader, may you reflect and ponder on the past, present, and future. Selah!

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

Season After Pentecost (Proper 27[32]) – The Epistle Passage: The Lord provides!

“For Christ did not enter a sanctuary made by human hands, a mere copy of the true one, but he entered into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. Nor was it to offer himself again and again, as the high priest enters the Holy Place year after year with blood that is not his own; for then he would have had to suffer again and again since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the age to remove sin by the sacrifice of himself. And just as it is appointed for mortals to die once, and after that the judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin, but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.” (Hebrews 9:24-28)
Paul was working very hard, and was really “working it”, in writing to the Hebrews about Jesus position and attributes as the Christ/ the Messiah. Until reading this long series of excerpts from the book of Hebrews I did not realize how long/much Paul wrote on this theme. Of course it may be that because the excerpts from Hebrews in the lectionary are spaced out over several weeks it seems like a long time. Sometimes it seems like Paul gets so few kudos from me, I will account it to his diligence in conveying his message.
The question pops into my mind – what does this mean for us?
“For Christ did not enter a sanctuary made by human hands . . . “ This means that the redemption, forgiveness, grace, mercy etc that comes from the Lord God Jesus Christ is not confined to any one religion or faith tradition, but is available to all who believe in it and the Divine.
“. . . but he entered into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf . . .” This means that Jesus did not just do this as a “mere” mortal but as a gesture undertaken and completed by the Divine.
“ Nor was it to offer himself again and again, as the high priest enters the Holy Place year after year with blood that is not his own . . . “ In many faith traditions it is customary to confess and ask for forgiveness over and over; sometimes because the tenets of faith dictate it and sometimes because we need forgiveness anew and again. But Christ completed it for us for all times because of the purity of his sacrifice. WE may need to “confess, repent, repeat” but Christ accomplished it first time out – so actually, now that I think of it, we can “confess, repent, repeat”!
“And just as it is appointed for mortals to die once, and after that the judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin, but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.” Now here Paul gets theological (if he has not already that is!) and rules out some possible faith beliefs. No reincarnation. Each of us will face our judgment day after our earthly life is over. The return of the Lord God Jesus Christ will signal the end of the age – not, make note, to judge. But together up those who still live and believe. In this passage Paul is silent about those who still live but do not believe. Personally I find that lack of comment ominous! Shalom!

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

Season After Pentecost (Proper 27[32]) – The Old Testament Passage: The Lord provides(?)

“Then the word of the LORD came to him, saying, “Go now to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and live there; for I have commanded a widow there to feed you.” (I King 17:8 – 9)
Editorial decision – I decided to go with the other Old Testament passage rather than continuing on with the story of Naomi and Ruth. I sort of gave away the ending of the story. I suppose, beloved reader, you already knew how the story ended. The Lord God looked down on Naomi and provided for her as well as for her daughter in law Ruth. That same theme is also found in this passage. But in this instance it is/was Elijah who was provided for, and the widow in Zarephath who found herself and her son under the protection of Elijah’s God.
“So he set out and went to Zarephath. When he came to the gate of the town, a widow was there gathering sticks; he called to her and said, “Bring me a little water in a vessel, so that I may drink.” As she was going to bring it, he called to her and said, “Bring me a morsel of bread in your hand.” But she said, “As the LORD your God lives, I have nothing baked, only a handful of meal in a jar, and a little oil in a jug; I am now gathering a couple of sticks, so that I may go home and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it, and die.” Elijah said to her, “Do not be afraid; go and do as you have said; but first make me a little cake of it and bring it to me, and afterwards make something for yourself and your son.” (Verses 10 – 13)
It might be very much outside of our experience, beloved reader, (at least I know it is outside mine) to have such a shortage of food that a last morsel might be all that is left and starvation is imminent. I have known lean times, both as a child and as an adult, but never lean enough that I would starve to death. On the face of it, Elijah’s instructions to the woman seem rather harsh – take care of me before yourself and your son! I thought so, until I went back and read that the Lord God had already designated this woman and her son to survive the famine. Which, incidentally, Elijah started as a lesson to King Ahab. This widow and her son were not the only ones whose very life was endanger. But they were designed to be saved.
“For thus says the LORD the God of Israel: The jar of meal will not be emptied and the jug of oil will not fail until the day that the LORD sends rain on the earth.” She went and did as Elijah said, so that she as well as he and her household ate for many days. The jar of meal was not emptied, neither did the jug of oil fail, according to the word of the LORD that he spoke by Elijah.” (Verses 14 – 16)
I said above that I have known lean times. There was a time our family was on the WIC program, where nursing mothers and young children are provided with the means to buy healthy food – fruits, meat, grains, dairy products. It is not the same thing as food stamps which provide a broad range of grocery items. But because I had young children they and I were eligible. It helped during a very rough time in our children’s growing up years. Thankfully better times came along, and now we know no want or need.
It is also humbling to be in such a position. And thinking about that, maybe Elijah’s gruffness in his demands covered and offset the woman’s despair. For the benefit of this prophet of God, she and her household were saved. She did not have to feel that charity was done to her, but expedient need was given for the benefit of the Divine’s prophet. I disliked receiving charity on the state’s dime, and was not treated with the dignity that I expected. I was very grateful that better times came. And actually, as I look back on it, the Lord’s hand supported and under girded us so that I need never threatened our lives.
In our day and age, starvation is a reality for many. Those who study such things say that if the distribution of resources was more fairly and equitably divided, starvation could be eliminated. I do not know if that is true. It is unnerving to think that our abundance is at the cost of another’s life. And maybe in the face of that, it is hard to belief that the Lord God the Divine provides. The truth of the matter – the bottom ground-level truth is that the Lord provides through the actions of others. And if others do not act, then there is overwhelming and life threatening need.
May you, beloved reader, wherever and whenever possible, let your umbrella of sufficiency (or if I dare say abundance) shelter and provide for others. Shalom and Selah!

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

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