Category: Spirituality

Season After Pentecost (Proper 7[12]) – The Gospel Passage: Seeing the might of Jesus in hindsight

“On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him.” (Mark 4:35 – 36)
That sounds very nice, an evening sail on the lake. And since Jesus’ disciples (or at least some of them) were able fishermen and seamen, I am sure it was a very safe thing to do. Keeping that fact in mind, what follows is very significant.
“A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” (Verses 37 – 38)
It must have been a terrible storm to upset the disciples, or at least those who were sailing the boat. And it must have come up suddenly because when they set out the lake was calm, or they would not have set out in the first place.
“He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” (Verses 39 – 40)
“Have you no faith?” he asked them. That question seems to be a surface question that does not hint to the deeper understanding that the disciples did not seem to understand. When one is with Jesus, there is no need to fear any situation. Jesus was (and is) in command of all situations. And if the Divine is sitting (or sleeping) in your boat, you need not fear anything. It makes me wonder if the the boat would have capsized if they had just tried to manage on their own. I mean, really, do you think Jesus was going to end up drowning?
“And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”” (Verse 41)
Of course, my thinking also tends to be from a human perspective, thinking of the physical danger rather than trusting in the plan of the Divine. Consider, if Jesus was mighty enough to command “the wind and the sea”, why did he not just hold off the storm in the first place. No, I think Jesus was going to let this teachable moment happen, and had that plan from the moment he said “Let’s go across to the other side.”
That is something to remember, beloved reader, as we set out and continue on the path and journey that the Divine called us to. Nothing will ever take the Lord or Jesus Christ by surprise. We can rest, and sleep, in that assurance. 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 Gospel Passage: Kingdom of God . . . here and now, or to come?

“He also said, “The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come.” (Mark 4:26 – 29)
There are some theological terms that almost defy explanation, but still we try. One such term is the “Kingdom of God.” It has several possible meanings, and a host of metaphors/parables that can be applied to it. In some instances it seems as if the “Kingdom of God” is already here, by virtue of the fact that at the present time there are believers populating it. Other times it seems as if the “Kingdom of God” is yet to come, ushered in by the Day of Judgment.
“He also said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it?
It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.” (Verses 30 – 32)
Is the Kingdom of God the believers that inhabit the earth and are renewed by each successive generation. Or is the Kingdom of God that which will be ushered in at a future time? It is, according to these parables, larger than anyone might anticipate. And at the time of its existence – whenever that might be – capable of growth. If the metaphors given are to be interpreted correctly, it almost seems as if the Kingdom of God is here and now on the earth. But how can that be if the earth and humanity seem to be so broken and suffering?
“With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it; he did not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything in private to his disciples.” (Verses 33 – 34)
It is helpful, I believe, to remember that when the gospels were written with these parables included the disciples did not know what the span of time would be before Christ’s return. And that Christianity as they were taught and understood it (and taught it to others) was basic and straightforward.
While there are some who believe the Kingdom of God is here and now, made evident in the lives and community of faithful believers – I would almost prefer to believe that it is yet to come. Believing it is here and now, set against the world as we know it, makes me feel that the Kingdom of God is small (yet mighty) in the larger scale of the world. Yet the disciples were a minority in their world, and even smaller minority compared to the global world that they did not realize was so large. So I think of the bible verse that is for this month on the calendar that hangs on my bedroom wall – “These things I have spoken to you, so tht in me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world. “ (John 16:33)
May the Kingdom of God be your home, beloved reader, now and in all the days to come. Selah!

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

Season After Pentecost (Proper 6 [11]) – The Epistle Passage: Being confident in our faith

“So we are always confident; even though we know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord — for we walk by faith, not by sight.” (II Corinthians 5:6-7)
I had a bit of a technological dilemma earlier this evening. I was able to find a solution; but as I always seem to do, I asked advice of other family member(s). Who, as it turns out, had no better idea than I did as to how to solve it. I did find the solution, on my own. I seem to distrust my own ability to figure out technology, and assume that others are better able to do it than I. That is not always the case.
Can you see, beloved reader, how this might relate to these first two verses? (Admittedly it might be a tenuous relating.) I could not see the solution to my technological mystery, but I had faith there was a solution. And that I could discern it. Now, we do not have the solution within ourselves to salvation. But we have the faith within to reach out to the Divine.
“Yes, we do have confidence, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. For all of us must appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each may receive recompense for what has been done in the body, whether good or evil.” (Verses 8 – 10)
Now Paul puts the greater emphasis on shunning the physical body and clinging more to the spirit and the soul. But we know that the body and soul/spirit have an intimate connection. And our bodies do not keep us from the Divine, but give us the ability to live out the commission and practice the law of love. It is our confidence that we can supplant our own the will and direction for the Spirit’s. So for the purposes of this reflection, I am emphasizing our confidence in our faith.
“Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we try to persuade others; but we ourselves are well known to God, and I hope that we are also well known to your consciences. We are not commending ourselves to you again, but giving you an opportunity to boast about us, so that you may be able to answer those who boast in outward appearance and not in the heart. For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you.” (Verses 11 – 13)
Paul had confidence in himself as an emissary and minister of the Lord God. He could not have traveled and preached as he did if he had not that confidence. It was confidence he received as a result of his calling and faith, but it was confidence nonetheless.
“For the love of Christ urges us on, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died. And he died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them. From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way. So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!” (Verses 14 – 17)
Let me ask you this beloved reader – would you give up worldly possessions and agenda if you were not confident that the Lord Jesus Christ lived and died, and then arose taking his place heaven beside the Lord God Creator? It takes confidence and faith to give up what the world has to offer, and instead live an authentic Christian life. More confidence and faith than it takes to master technology! And may your confidence and faith in the Divine Lord God be rewarded in this life and the life to come! Selah!

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

The Gospel is about a Person, not a Prayer (by Rachel Held Evans)

Today, you get to hear from my friend Rachel. I first met Rachel Held Evans on the interwebs back around 2010, when only my grandma read my first blog. We then got the chance to hang out at a conference in SD the following year and have followed along with each other’s journeys ever since. I’m always […]

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Syndicated from the Pangea Blog

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

Season After Pentecost (Proper 5 [10]) – The Psalm Passage: Faith to give thanks

One of the Facebook groups I am a part of posted the question of what we are thankful for. Of course there were a variety of answers posted from then mild and humorous to the serious and touching. What one is thankful for various from day to day, and situation to situation. It is fine and good to be thankful for the large and overarching things – family and loved ones – and the small and minor things – getting a parking spot and having a good meal. As believers and followers of the Divine, we can be thankful for the Divine’s presence in our lives and in the lives of others. The psalmist excels at giving things for that.
“I give you thanks, O LORD, with my whole heart; before the gods I sing your praise; I bow down toward your holy temple and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness; for you have exalted your name and your word above everything.” (Psalms 138:1 – 2)
Because it was and is obvious to give thanks for the large things, in response to the question posted I gave thanks for a small thing. The reason, for me, in giving thanks for a small thing was because the large things – that is the most important things in my life – are things that I know will be there and I can count on them. Of course I am thankful for them. But I have assurance that they will be there. The small things, on the other hand, may ebb and flow with time and circumstance so I gave thanks for them as they happen.
“On the day I called, you answered me, you increased my strength of soul.” (Verse 3)
When a believer calls on the Lord God, the assumption is that the Lord God will answer. The answer may not be immediate nor what one expects. But we can have faith that Lord God will answer. So it may not be the answer to prayer and petition that we are thankful for as much as that we are heard by our Lord God.
“All the kings of the earth shall praise you, O LORD, for they have heard the words of your mouth.
They shall sing of the ways of the LORD, for great is the glory of the LORD.
For though the LORD is high, he regards the lowly; but the haughty he perceives from far away.” (Verses 4 – 6)
When I first read through Psalm 138, it was verse 3 that resonated within me most. And I guess for me, it is the verse that this psalm hinges on. It is why I can have faith that the large important things in my life – which really aren’t “things” – will be there for me. It is why I give thanks for small things, because they help me along my way. The granting of the small blessings helps me keep my courage up to face difficult issues in my life. And I give thanks for that as well.
“Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve me against the wrath of my enemies; you stretch out your hand, and your right hand delivers me. The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O LORD, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of your hands.” (Verses 7 – 8)
“ Do not forsake the work of your hands” . . . what I take that to mean is “Do not forsake creation and your called and chosen people . . . Do not forsake those who call on the Lord God.” I do not think the Lord God does, beloved reader. And that is why we can have the faith to give thanks for all things, because the Divine is with us. Selah!

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

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 5 [10]) – The Old Testament Passages: Choices

When I sat down to start this weeks reflections I had two choices for the Old Testament; the scene in the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve confess that they eat the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge . . . .
“He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat? The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit from the tree, and I ate.” Then the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent tricked me, and I ate.” (Genesis 3:11 -13)
or the scene where the elders of Israel asks Samuel to appoint a king over them so they can be like other nations . .
“Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah, and said to him, “You are old and your sons do not follow in your ways; appoint for us, then, a king to govern us, like other nations.” But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to govern us.” (I Samuel 8:4 – 6)
And at first I thought they were two passages that had very different tones from one another. But as I thought and pondered on it, I realized the themes are very much the same. Choices, and the consequences of those choices. Just suppose that Eve resisted the snake, and/or Adam did not eat the fruit that Eve offered. We might still be in Paradise in the Garden of Eden. Or if the elders of Israel said, “It is tough going without a king like other nations but we want to persevere in following the Lord – help us Samuel.” (Despite the fact that Samuel’s sons did not follow in their father’s footsteps – another choice!) Israel may have never gone astray at all!
But if not for being forced out of the Garden of Eden, would not have learned to value the sweetness of communion with the Divine and would not have learned the shame of sin. If Israel had not kings over the nation, humanity might never have learned of the fallibility of human “wisdom” and leadership. It is only through making poor choices that we learn the importance of making wise choices. We thoughtlessly chose this or that, and if the consequences never catch up to us we never learn wisdom.
Israel learned –
“So Samuel reported all the words of the LORD to the people who were asking him for a king. He said, “These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and appoint them to his chariots and to be his horsemen, and to run before his chariots; and he will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and some to plow his ground and to reap his harvest, and to make his implements of war and the equipment of his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards and give them to his courtiers. He will take one-tenth of your grain and of your vineyards and give it to his officers and his courtiers. He will take your male and female slaves, and the best of your cattle and donkeys, and put them to his work. He will take one-tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves. And in that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves; but the LORD will not answer you in that day.” (I Samuel 8:10 – 18)
Adam and Eve learned –
“They heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden.
But the LORD God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?” He said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.” He said, “Who told you that you were naked?” (Genesis 3:8 – 11a)
What have you learned, beloved reader, because of poor choices? Sometimes I think our best learning comes from our worst choices . . . sometimes. But if we follow the Lord God faithfully without error, we would also be wise. But . . . . we would not be human.
Beloved reader, may you make no choice that puts you to faraway from the Divine that you cannot find your way back! 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

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