Category: Spirituality

Season After Pentecost (Proper 15[20]) – The Psalms Passage: Praising the Lord with good sense and judgment . . . and wisdom

“Praise the LORD! I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart, in the company of the upright, in the congregation.
Great are the works of the LORD, studied by all who delight in them.
Full of honor and majesty is his work, and his righteousness endures forever.
He has gained renown by his wonderful deeds; the LORD is gracious and merciful.” (Psalm 111:1 – 4)
I don’t want you to think beloved reader, just because I am extending a theme in the titles I chose that I believe this psalm to be any better (or any worse for that matter) at praising the Lord. The Divine is worthy and deserving of any and all positive attributes that we would ascribe to the Lord God.
“He provides food for those who fear him; he is ever mindful of his covenant.
He has shown his people the power of his works, in giving them the heritage of the nations.
The works of his hands are faithful and just; all his precepts are trustworthy.
They are established forever and ever, to be performed with faithfulness and uprightness.” (Verses 5 – 8)
One strong reason that I do like this psalm passage is that it is based (so far) on the attributes of the Lord God apart from what the Divine might or might not do for any particular individual. It is praise that all peoples can get behind and join in, whatever their circumstance, situation and geographical and historical location.
“He sent redemption to his people; he has commanded his covenant forever. Holy and awesome is his name. The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. His praise endures forever.” (Verses 9 – 10)
Lastly, it gives us all the opportunity to be wise. However you understand “the fear of the Lord” and however you understand and describe “wisdom” – this psalm has something that all worshipers and followers of the Divine can relate to.
“O fear the LORD, you his holy ones, for those who fear him have no want.” (Psalm 34:9)
The other psalms passage for this week also under girds the pursuit of wisdom and understanding. This one being the passage that is paired to the description of wisdom calling out, and has the same sort of theme – the pursuit of wisdom, with a little more definition of what wisdom (according to the Divine) might be like.
“The young lions suffer want and hunger, but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing.
Come, O children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the LORD.
Which of you desires life, and covets many days to enjoy good?
Keep your tongue from evil, and your lips from speaking deceit.
Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it.” (Verses 10 – 14)
But it is definitely a themed wisdom for this world and not the world to come. We do not read here of the eternal life that the epistle and gospel passage highlight. Good living, wise living is for this world. How then should we branch wisdom shown in this world to the world to come? Can we? There is only brief mention of redemption in verse 9 of Psalms 111. It comes from the Lord as part of a covenant. Paul would tell us it is part of the old covenant, which in the light of Jesus Christ has been updated. Maybe that should be (and is) an important part of the praise refrain, that our surety for the world and life to come is not dependent on our merits but on the faithfulness of the Lord God. Praise on, beloved reader! Selah!

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

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Season After Pentecost (Proper 15[20]) – The Gospel Passage: “Eating” and “Drinking” with good sense and judgment

“I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” (John 6:51 – 52)
You know, beloved reader, it occurred to me that we have a unique view of this passage because we know what happens to Jesus. We know the story of the Last Supper. We know the motif that Jesus will fulfill at the end of his life. Here, as far as the disputing Jews are concerned Jesus is proposing something totally outside of their understanding, and extremely disdainful considering their dietary laws. Surely at some point the disputing Jesus must have figured out that Jesus was making a metaphor concerning full and total acceptance of what he was preaching.
“So Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink.” (Verses 53 – 55)
So we pass from the disconcerting image of eating human flesh and blood to idea that what Jesus was preaching about had impact for life and death, and an existence beyond this world. And that Jesus was not just a mortal person but something beyond that.
“Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me.” (Verses 56 – 57)
Let us step back for a moment and consider this. Believing in what Jesus is saying is a choice. I find it interesting that the writer of the gospel of John says the Jews were disputing amongst themselves – it does not say disputing with Jesus. But amongst their own group. Can we take this to mean that some of them understood what Jesus was trying to explain to them? That perhaps some of the believed? I would like to hold out the possibility that some did understand the message that Jesus was giving them. That they understood in the same way that Ezekiel ate the scroll offered to him, that they taken in and absorb the ways and wisdom of Jesus.
It also occurs to me that it does not take the wisdom of Solomon to know enough to follow Jesus. As I alluded to before, Solomon offered sacrifices in the “high places” meaning the places where offering to other deities were done. Jesus, looking back over the ancestral Jews, commented that they made choices that did not give them eternal life. And that for the traditions and rituals that the Jews of Jesus’ time abided by would not save them at the last day. Jesus was offering them the only thing that would redeem them and make them acceptable to the Divine.
“This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live forever.” (Verse 58)
I said last time we talked, I am optimistic that the majority of people in the world are kind and caring, making choices that reflect concern and undertaking for others. Choices, and more over balanced choices, are they way to make our way through the world and come out at a place where there is eternal life and a world to come. What we choice to believe has consequences, as does how we live out our beliefs. Consider carefully, beloved reader, and make good choices. Selah!

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

Season After Pentecost (Proper 15[20]) – The Epistle Passage: Showing good sense and judgment over the long haul

“Be careful then how you live, not as unwise people but as wise, making the most of the time, because the days are evil.” (Ephesians 5:15 – 16)
As part of my job today I spent time with a client who needed to go to the ER. I know from having worked with other clients, and from personal experience, being alone and unattended in an ER exam room can be one of the most disheartening experiences. So I am determined that no one under my care should go through that experience alone. What does that have to do with these two verses you ask, beloved reader? My point is – the days are evil only when a person chooses evil ways. When you put the care and well-being in the forefront of your thinking and planning, there is no chance of evil happening.
According to the commentators I read, the meaning of “because the days are evil” means there is so much temptation and opportunity to do evil and pursue unworthy things. Paul has a very dim view of creation and humanity. So many of the people I know pursue such worthwhile things. And while not perfect, their days are spent pursuing good and the good of others. It is for this reason hold (or try to hold) an optimistic and positive view of creation and humanity.
And I have to wonder, were the people in the time of Paul really as thoughtless, evil, and cruel as he seems to anticipate they will be? Was there a difference between the way people lived and interacted with others, and the way we treat our fellow brother/sister in humanity? Or am I just that naïve about the world around me?
“So do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but be filled with the Spirit, as you sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, singing and making melody to the Lord in your hearts, giving thanks to God the Father at all times and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Verses 17 – 20)
Okay, I have to admit the rest of this passage does sound pretty unrealistic – I am pretty sure the people around me are not bursting out in praise and song to the Lord every few minutes. Maybe there is, and should be, a middle ground. Doing good and seeking to do good, but not going around as a Christian choir in a gospel worship service. Even the best of gospel worship service choirs sings their final “Amen” and puts down their sheet music. Life goes on.
What Paul does not seem to give allowance for is living a Christian life in the long run, generation after generation. Could Paul see that some two thousand years plus we would still be waiting for the return of Jesus? And then I wonder, did Paul live a life as he described – did Paul “sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs . . . . . singing and making melody to the Lord in [his] hearts, giving thanks to God the Father at all times and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ”?
We live in a real and ongoing world. If we veer too much to the side of personal indulgence and acting without care and compassion, then yes we live in evil days. But you can veer the other direction too much also, so focused on praise and worship that pragmatics of life and the daily reality of living are not given enough attention. If we are going to survive in the long haul, we need to have balance between living in this world and living for the sake of the world to come. And before you throw up your hands in despair thinking that balance is not possible, let me tell you, Jesus lived a balanced life. Yes, he was Divine. But he was also human, and appreciated the needs of a human life. He may have only lived on this earth until the human age of thirty-three, but the example he left us will carry us through the long haul. Selah!

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

Interview: Christopher Heuertz, The Sacred Enneagram

Christopher Heuertz joins Steve on the podcast to discuss his book The Sacred Enneagram. The book is described as (via the Gravity Center page):

Move beyond type as mere caricature and learn how to work with the Enneagram for spiritual growth.
Christopher L. Heuertz was first introduced to the Enneagram in the slums of Cambodia. Since then he has trained under some of the great living Enneagram masters including Father Richard Rohr, Russ Hudson, Marion Gilbert, and Helen Palmer, and now teaches the Enneagram in workshops and retreats around the world. Chris is an International Enneagram Association Accredited Professional. He and his wife Phileena live in Omaha with their puppy Basil, and you can join him on Facebook and Twitter in his intentions to love on the margins.
Topics covered in this episode include:

Richard Rohr’s impact on Chris (1:17)
Introducing the theme of the book: finding your true self (5:00)
Introducing the Enneagram itself, not just another personality test to put you in a box (13:49)
Steve’s Enneagram type, Chris’ Enneagram type, and the centers of the Enneagram (24:17)
How to best find out your type, the dangers of typing others, and the ease of being mistyped (33:14)
Contemplative prayer and how that works together with the Enneagram (50:46)

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Season After Pentecost (Proper 15[20]) – The Old Testament Passage: Showing good sense and judgment

When David slept with his ancestors, his son Solomon rose to power. King Solomon was known for his wisdom; however he chose to worship in some less that traditional places. Verse three says, “Solomon loved the LORD, walking in the statutes of his father David; only, he sacrificed and offered incense at the high places.” It was not counted against him as it was for some of his descendants. But my point is not that. I want to focus on wisdom.
“Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, able to discern between good and evil; for who can govern this your great people?”
It pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this. God said to him, “Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches, or for the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, I now do according to your word. Indeed I give you a wise and discerning mind; no one like you has been before you and no one like you shall arise after you.” (I Kings 3:9 – 12)
And focus not just Solomon’s wisdom but wisdom in general.
“Wisdom has built her house, she has hewn her seven pillars.
She has slaughtered her animals, she has mixed her wine, she has also set her table.
She has sent out her servant girls, she calls from the highest places in the town,” (Proverbs 9:1-3)
Some have thought it Solomon’s father wrote many or most of the psalms; and some think it was Solomon who wrote Proverbs, or contributed to the collection of wisdom that is contained in the book or Proverbs. And this would make sense considering that Solomon had wisdom like not other. But wisdom is not just an attribute but a living force. It is said that Wisdom, Sophia, was at the beginning of creation. And that as a muse, she is a continuing force in the lives of humanity. And, beloved reader, do not miss the fact that she calls from the highest places in the town.
“You that are simple, turn in here!” To those without sense she says, “Come, eat of my bread and drink of the wine I have mixed. Lay aside immaturity, and live, and walk in the way of insight.” (Verses 4 – 6)
Simple and immature. Yes, that is one way of describing people who do not seem to have wisdom and/or common sense. So maybe wisdom is not “book learning” but an awareness of what it means to live well. An insight into people and that way the world works; how to get along with people and discern the best course of action. Now, the Old Testament tells us that God said no one has been wise in the way Solomon was before or after. If we look at the kings who came before Solomon, that might be very true. And if we look at the kings who came after Solomon, that might be very true as well. But I suggest to you beloved reader that beyond the vision of this Old Testament writer, there may be people who have wisdom as Solomon did. Furthermore, since the Old Testament writer was probably only familiar with the more well-known biblical characters, there might have been those just as wise. This all to say, beloved reader, that you might have the wisdom of Solomon and not be known for it. I might too!
The salient point is that Solomon showed wisdom in what he asked for from the Divine. We can be just as wise in asking things of our Heavenly Lord. I hope and pray you do so! Selah!

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

Season After Pentecost (Proper 14[19]) – The Psalm Passage: When sorrow is deep . . . .

“Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD.” (Psalms 13:1)
We define our own depths, beloved reader. What is one person’s depths could be another person’s everyday. But that disparity does not make it any less appropriate to cry out to the Lord. There no such thing as a depth too deep for the Lord to reach, or a shallow depth too small for the Lord to be concerned about. And there is no limit on how many times we can cry out to the Divine.
“Lord, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications!
If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities, Lord, who could stand?
But there is forgiveness with you, so that you may be revered.” (Verses 2 – 4)
As to our level of sinfulness as a deterrent to the Lord’s coming to us, there is no deterrent. Our sincere cry is enough for the Lord to break through and come to us. Do not hesitate to call on the Divine, beloved reader.
“I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than those who watch for the morning, more than those who watch for the morning.
O Israel, hope in the LORD! For with the LORD there is steadfast love, and with him is great power to redeem. It is he who will redeem Israel from all its iniquities.” (Verses 5 – 8)
. . . .  Praise deeply
“I will bless the LORD at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
My soul makes its boast in the LORD; let the humble hear and be glad.
O magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together.” (Psalm 34:1 – 3)
It takes great courage and faith to praise the Lord when you yourself in the depths. I will admit it is hard for me to praise the Divine when I am feeling so low and helpless, griped in the fears and concerns that pursue me. If I could but turn around when I am pursued and praise the Lord, I believe what is causing me distress would be overwhelmed by the Presence of the Lord.

“I sought the LORD, and he answered me, and delivered me from all my fears.
Look to him, and be radiant; so your faces shall never be ashamed.
This poor soul cried, and was heard by the LORD, and was saved from every trouble.
The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them.
O taste and see that the LORD is good; happy are those who take refuge in him.” (Verses 4 – 8)
It bears repeating, beloved reader, that the psalmist had the skill and ability to praise the Lord in time of trouble. Or at least turn to the Lord for support and direction. Or at the very least, cry out to the Lord in times of trouble. But it is also true, beloved reader, that when things are trouble free people are less likely to praise the Lord. Yes, when things are spiraling down, we reach out to the Divine for help, and help is given. Then we praise the Lord. But several miles down the road when things are going well, we forget that there were low times and neglect to give thanks to the Providence that early on helped us out. I do that myself sometimes too.
So really, there is no time that we should NOT be praising the Lord. Good times, bad times and the times in between, lift up praise! Selah!
 

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

Season After Pentecost (Proper 14[19]) – The Gospel Passage: When Christology is deep

“Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. . . . Then the Jews began to complain about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” They were saying, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” (John 6:35, 41 – 42)
The Jews, who ever they were in this story, thought they knew Jesus. Thought they knew his origins, his family, his birthright, his life history. How could he be anything else than who they thought he was? Furthermore, they might have thought, how dare he think more of himself than he is.
“Jesus answered them, “Do not complain among yourselves. No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me; and I will raise that person up on the last day. It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.’ “ (Verses 43 – 45a)
The paradox is, unless a person believes there is no way for them to be taught and believe. One has to believe in “the Father” and believe that God sent Jesus in order to be taught by Jesus and fulfill the prophecy of “the prophets.” But do not ascribe this paradox to a Divine who wishes to remain obscure. The gospel of John is dense & deep, and filled with wherefores and whereas. The message of Jesus Christ and his teachings do not necessarily need to be shrouded in mystery. But the mystery is there, for those who go looking for it.
“Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me. Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; he has seen the Father.” (Verses 45b – 46)
I am reminded at this in point in my reflections of the other Old Testament passage for this week that I chose not to use. Let me set the scene. Elijah is fleeing from Ahab and Jezebel because he had killed “all the prophets” with a sword; a good companion piece connect to NOT dealing gently with those who oppose you. Elijah has left his traveling companions and . . .
“he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a solitary broom tree. He asked that he might die: “It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life, for I am no better than my ancestors.” Then he lay down under the broom tree and fell asleep. Suddenly an angel touched him and said to him, “Get up and eat.” He looked, and there at his head was a cake baked on hot stones, and a jar of water. He ate and drank, and lay down again. The angel of the LORD came a second time, touched him, and said, “Get up and eat, otherwise the journey will be too much for you. He got up, and ate and drank; then he went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb the mount of God. ” (I Kings 19:4 – 8)
The similarities I see are these. Food has been offered that will sustain beyond normal expectations. It is given by the Divine – surely it must have been because there was no one else there to provide it. However, the difference is that Elijah does see the Divine, or something very close to Divinity. Was it an angel, a messenger of God? Did this angel perform a miracle itself by making the food appear? Did the angel physically carry it? Doubtful. Was it the Godself? Or might it have been the aspect of God that became the Son who was sent? But then what did Elijah see? The interweavings are confusing. And finally, we know that Elijah was taken up into heaven as opposed to dying to the physical life. Now, read on.
“Very truly, I tell you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” (Verses 47 – 51)
I am not trying to set forth new commentary or break ground on new theology. I am simply saying that the question of who Christ was (and is) and Christ’s place in the believe in a Triune God is deep and complex. We can know Jesus as (simply) the son of God sent by the Divine for our benefit. We can also go deeper and look for connections across the scriptures, and allow ourselves to be drawn into the mystery. This search, however beloved reader, must be tested by and with the Holy Spirit. And again we meet with a paradox, because we must authentically believe first in the Holy Spirit in order to learn more.
May you, beloved reader, be drawn in by the Lord God in order to meet Jesus Christ in order to learn increasingly more. Selah!

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

Sunday is Not the Main Event: A Practice-Based Christianity (Aaron Niequist)

Kurt: Today I’m excited to share with you an excerpt from my friend Aaron Niequist’s brand new book: The Eternal Current: How a Practice-Based Faith Can Save Us from Drowning. I’ve been waiting a long time to get a copy in my hands. And let me tell you: this book will not disappoint. In what follows, […]

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Syndicated from the Pangea Blog

Trying to break through the fourth wall

Every once in a while I just want to interact with you, beloved and gentle readers. Most times I have commenting from behind/through the scripture for the day. While I may cover a small variety to topics, mostly it is related to scripture passages and my perspective on them through the lens of my faith beliefs. However as I have said on a few occasions, there is more to my life than just scripture. There is family and friends, work and leisure, reading and watching television – you get the idea. I am more than the words on this screen. And you, beloved and gentle readers, are more than the screens that you are reading this one. It is ironic than that it is only through our comparative screens that we can relate.
And it is only a one way connection – me talking to you. The irony is further compounded by the fact that recently I had to move off my Facebook profile, which is geared to me as a person,to the more regulated Facebook page that I have set up. Yes, the page that I had thought I would close down and then abruptly canceled its deletion. I still need to fine tune the settings to get the correct balance between transparency of intent and control of content. And no, Facebook tutorials have not been helpful.
Switching from one to the other reminds of the period of time and decision making I went through when I moved my blog from “A Simple Desire” to the current one “Pondering From the Pacific”. That was a decision that I mulled over for quite some time. It meant going from a high traffic situation and blog to a much more low traffic and smaller scale blog. I still check on the blog every once in a while. Yes, it is still active. I do not post on it anymore, but there are still people who visit it every day. In fact, irony upon irony, it sees more activity than the the blog that that I post one now! Oh well.
It would be nice to get feedback. When I was actively writing the blog “A Simple Desire” it accumulated an impressive amount of comments on the blog site itself. While “Pondering From the Pacific” was on my Facebook profile I would get comments occasionally. I have not gotten any comments yet on the Facebook page. I do not know for sure if interested readers could comment on my Facebook page. That is part of why I need to check the settings. I do know readers can post comments and feedback on my blog page. That does not happen much either. Like I said, communication is pretty much one way. I could wish it would be otherwise.
Some years back there was someone who commented quite regularly on my “A Simple Desire” blog. It got to the point where we were holding extensive conversations through the blog posts. I think we finally moved it to email. But things happened, and she stopped writing. I think she was going through some difficult times and she found me to be a good outlet for experiencing her feelings and processing her situation. But then things got awkward and she stopped writing. It was one of the very few times the “fourth wall” was broken through.
The term “fourth wall” comes from theater. The three walls are the back and two sides of the stage. The fourth wall, stage front, is the fourth wall that the audience can see through to the action. Breaking the fourth wall means the actor talks directly to the audience. But in my case it would mean that you, my reader are responding back to me in give and take. The “fourth wall” is that you can see and hear me, but I cannot see nor hear you. And I would like that. I freely admit that the idea of sending out my words and thoughts into cyberspace has great appeal. But at times if feels like a vacuum where there is no response or reaction back.
That was actually one of the reasons I started the Facebook page “Enthyme Counseling”, to set up an arena where people could post and respond back to me. It seemed as if the Facebook profile was just a factoid sheet about me. I was out there commenting on other people’s profiles/pages but it was again a one way street.
At the risk of bringing in faith issues and shutting down the conversation, it seems to me that our relationship with God (and the Divine) is a lot the same way. We pray up/out to God, but we don’t often get direct communication back. I guess heaven has a fourth wall too!
Well, this has just been my attempt to open up a dialogue. I will press “publish” and it will almost instantly appear on my blog and on my Facebook page. I would welcome and encourage you to send something back to me. Break down the wall and let’s talk! Shalom!

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

Season After Pentecost (Proper 13[18]) – The Psalms Passage: Asking for forgiveness for the small and big sins in life

“Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.
Against you, you alone, have I sinned, and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are justified in your sentence and blameless when you pass judgment. Indeed, I was born guilty, a sinner when my mother conceived me.” ( (Psalm 51:1 – 5)
I can’t say that I agree with everything the psalmist says here. Actually it is only one thing that I disagree with – that when a child is born it is already guilty of sin. Sin means deciding against God and belief in Jesus Christ, and deliberately choosing to not follow the law of love. Infants and small children have no concept of choosing for or against God. And no concept of the consequences. I firmly belief that the mercy and compassion of God covers children until that point in their lives comes when they realize there is a choice, and that they showed chose. I was about twelve years old when I came to that point. There is no one preset age. But I digress. I guess what I mean is that this psalm is for the adults in the crowd who have come to the place in their lives when they have decided.
“You desire truth in the inward being; therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have crushed rejoice.” (Verses 6 – 8)
Here again the psalmist and I diverge slightly. Verse 8 implies that it is good that the Lord has disciplined us and we should be glad of it. Coming to see and realize one’s sins and ask/receive forgiveness is a good thing. I just don’t think has to be or necessarily is “bone crushing” but I allow the psalmist poetic license. But you know, if the psalmist is King David and he was seeing the magnitude of the sins he committed, maybe he did feel that his bones needed to be crushed a little bit!
“Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me. Do not cast me away from your presence, and do not take your holy spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and sustain in me a willing spirit.” (Verses 9 – 12)
This week our theme has been small and large things, minor and major issues and consequences. There is no greater issue than the committing of sin, and no larger need than forgiveness. And actually in the Divine’s sight there is no such thing as small and large sins, no matter how much we may like to categorize levels of “being bad” and assessing people according to the mistakes and missteps they make. If God’s compassion, grace, mercy, salvation, and redemption (to include all the aspects of forgiveness) is sufficient – then we should not give into temptation to judge. That would be sin!
“Yet he commanded the skies above, and opened the doors of heaven;
he rained down on them manna to eat, and gave them the grain of heaven.
Mortals ate of the bread of angels; he sent them food in abundance.
He caused the east wind to blow in the heavens, and by his power he led out the south wind;
he rained flesh upon them like dust, winged birds like the sand of the seas;
he let them fall within their camp, all around their dwellings.
And they ate and were well filled, for he gave them what they craved.” (Psalm 78:23-29)
The Divine knew that his creation humanity would need forgiveness. If the Divine who created Adam and Eve was/is as knowledgeable as believers believe, then the Divine knew that the Tree of Knowledge would be their downfall. And yet it was created. So the need for forgiveness (and all that it entails) was pretty much brought into being at the same time. The Lord God provided food for the Hebrews in the desert, and Jesus said that was a lessor thing than the Bread of Life that the Divine Lord God established.
The Hebrews asked for sustenance in the desert and it was given. It is the next logical step to ask for something more lasting. Do not be afraid to ask, beloved reader. Ask for what you need, in small or large measure. If it is necessary to your continuing to be a child of God, it will be given. Selah!

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

Season After Pentecost (Proper 13[18]) – The Gospel Passage: Issues in life great and small, clear and unclear

“So when the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum looking for Jesus. When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” ( John 6:24 – 25)
In other words, “What did we miss?” The success of the loaves and fishes was so great that the crowd was seeking more instant food. Jesus decided to put a stop to that and instead directed their attention of more important matters.
“Jesus answered them, “Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal.” Then they said to him, “What must we do to perform the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” (Verses 26 – 29)
Was this an earnest inquiry? Did the crowd truly want a way to gain eternal life – that is, salvation and redemption? According to some commentators I read, yes the inquiry was sincere. And Jesus’ answer was to tell them it is not works – that is, human endeavors – that bestows salvation but belief in Jesus as Messiah.
“So they said to him, “What sign are you going to give us then, so that we may see it and believe you? What work are you performing?” (Verse 30)
It is this question that makes me doubt the sincerity of those gathered. One commentator posits that it was not the seeking and believing crowd that asked this but those pesky Jewish leaders that were constantly seeking and demanding signs and proofs yet not believing when it was presented to them.
“Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.'” (Verse 31)
It is also this statement that makes me wonder about this second set of question askers. We seem to be right back at the issue of food being provided. At first glance it seems to connects to the miracle of the loaves and fishes that Jesus performed. But the miracle, according to a commentator I read, is attributed to Moses and not to the Lord God that Moses believed in. And not to the Lord God who lead the Hebrews out of Egypt. Jesus again tries to readjust the “crowds” thinking. That what the “ancestors” received was food; what Jesus is offering sustains not the body but the soul.
“Then Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” (Verses 32 – 33)
I want to add an “aside” at this point; it seems to me this is a fairly disjointed passage. The “crowd” at various points seems to take on different perspectives and attitudes. The writer of the gospel of John does not clearly identify who is in this crowd or what type of members it is composed of. And that it segues into such a clear yet mystical statement by Jesus of his mission on the earth leaves me wondering if we have not been reading a montage of conversations.
“They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” (Verses 34 – 35)
We started out at the beginning of this passage being given the crowd’s (that is one type of crowd) perspective on Jesus’ track record of miracles, and this crowd wonders what they have missed in “awesome factor” and food. Then this crowd focuses in on the underlying message of Jesus’ miracles, that he represents a Divine Lord who offers salvation and eternal life. And they want this. But then the crowd (or is it another crowd) asks for proof that Jesus is who he says he is. Is he (Jesus), they ask, like Moses who was on a Divine mission from God? When Jesus answers, I am not really sure anymore which crowd he is addressing; the sincere crowd or the questioning crowd? And that the gospel writer does not seem to give much direction as to who is who makes me wonder if the point was not to give Jesus the opportunity to set down doctrine and theology.
However, beloved reader, in the middle of the muddle we have a clear statement that the work of believers is to believe in the One who was sent and that the Sender is the Divine. In the middle of a muddle it’s nice to have a solid direction. May you, beloved reader, set aside the small issues of life and focus in on the larger more lasting & eternal issues. And may the Holy Spirit make it clear to you. Selah!

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

Season After Pentecost (Proper 13[18]) – The Epistle Passage: Life choices and vocations of all shapes and sizes

“I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.” (Ephesians 4:1 – 6)
I am aware that Paul is emphasizing a great deal of “one.” And it is true, when looking at Christianity from a dogmatic perspective, one either chooses for or against Jesus Christ and the Lord God. And Paul most definitely chose one way, and then changed to the other. However, there are many ways to live out an authentic Christian life.
“But each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore it is said, “When he ascended on high he made captivity itself a captive; he gave gifts to his people.” (When it says, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is the same one who ascended far above all the heavens, so that he might fill all things.)” (Verses 7 – 10)
I puzzled over this one for a while, beloved reader. Consulted several translations, read a few commentaries, and what I determined is this – the “lower parts of the earth”, that is us. Humanity. Creation. With all of our flaws and sins. I guess, looking back of the less than admirable Israelites and Judahites, Paul thought it had been a pretty motley bunch. Thankfully Paul prefaces his critique with the belief that each of us – then, now and in the future – was given grace. So buoyed up with that life preserver of salvation, let us read on.
“The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ.” (Verses 11 – 13)
Those are lofty goals, “maturity . . . . full stature of Christ”, that Paul is setting up. Life long pursuits. Some days I look at the world (myself included) and wonder if we will ever attain that. But then I remember, that is why apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers were called forth. The thing to remember is that we are learning from each other. No one, not even Paul, has the “full measure of the full stature of Christ” except for Christ!
“We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming. But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love.” (Verses 14 – 16)
I entitled this pondering as choices and vocations; vocations because all of us have a task and calling in the overall ministry that Christ calls us to. Some it is a career calling, others the way they live their lives as an example to others. And that is where the “choice” comes it. Because as I said earlier, it is a choice. Not just for or against Jesus Christ and the Lord God – that is a simple and dogmatic perspective. No, there are shades of following the Divine. We differentiate between those who formally enter ministry and those who just seem to be “good” Christian people.
There are also subtle ways of living a Christian life, most of which depend on how one defines Christian. Paul has set down a pretty unwavering standard. We are, however, a long time and space away from Paul. And from the days of the early Christian church. The history of Christianity has been a long and bumpy road. Good choices and bad choices, vocations that have helped and hindered the message of Christ. Be careful how you chose, beloved reader, be careful. Selah!

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

Season After Pentecost (Proper 13[18]) – The Old Testament Passage: Temptations and sins of all shapes and sizes

Talk about being between a rock and a hard place – in the Old Testament passage where King David’s story is being told, we hear about David bringing Bathsheba into the palace, her giving birth to a son, and then David being confronted by the prophet Nathan concerning his sin against Uriah, Bathsheba’s husband. The other Old Testament passage is where “the whole congregation of the Israelites” were upset with Moses and Aaron. Now, beloved reader, who would you rather be confronted by? A prophet of God, or the disgruntled Israelites in the desert who had no food and very little drink. Me personally, I don’t think I would want to face down either one!
Now, King David knew he was in the wrong; the prophet Nathan told an allegory about David taking Uriah’s wife. When David heard it he was inflamed . . .
“Then David’s anger was greatly kindled against the man. He said to Nathan, “As the LORD lives, the man who has done this deserves to die; he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity.” (II Samuel 12:5 – 6)
And when confronted with the realization that it was he was guilty,
“David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the LORD.” (Verse 13a)
Now you have to understand, beloved reader, the prophet Nathan had a tremendous tirade against King David, basically saying that David as a king and as a man will be disgraced somewhere down the road.
I have been thinking about David a lot; and a great deal about David being a man after God’s own heart. Maybe the correct direction was David constantly seeking God, rather than God always approving of David. But, let us not leave Moses and Aaron hanging.

“The whole congregation of the Israelites complained against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness. The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the fleshpots and ate our fill of bread; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.” (Exodus 16:2 – 3)
You know, compared to the Israelites, David is looking pretty good. I mean, they would rather have died in captivity and slavery than to be free and able to live out their lives as they chose? I guess the Divine was practicing patience long before King David came along.
“Then the LORD said to Moses, “I am going to rain bread from heaven for you, and each day the people shall go out and gather enough for that day. In that way I will test them, whether they will follow my instruction or not. . . The LORD spoke to Moses and said,”I have heard the complaining of the Israelites; say to them, ‘At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall have your fill of bread; then you shall know that I am the LORD your God.” (Verses 4, 9 – 12)
These were the Lord God’s called and chosen people. From the time forward, from the Exodus to the coming of Jesus, the people of God were reminded of how much God had done for them. Yet each generation forgot, or neglected to pass on to the next generation the appreciation and adoration that was due to the Lord. Yes, I know that I have professed some reluctance to praise on demand. But I have not lodged complaints against Lord because I have found myself in dire situations. Nor have I taken advantage of my position in life to abscond with another’s possessions.
Oh I have committed sin in my life – don’t think I am a saint. Each of us has our weak points – temptations that appear before us that we cannot and do not deny ourselves, or fleshpots and conveniences that we place more importance on than we should. And when our weak points become pitfalls we often need the reminder of what we have done and what we should do better.
May you, beloved reader, overcome your weak points and remain strong against sin and temptation. Selah!

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

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