Season after Pentecost (Proper 15 [20]): The Psalm Passage – Seek and treasure harmony where you find it

How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity!
It is like the precious oil on the head, running down upon the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down over the collar of his robes.
It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion. For there the LORD ordained his blessing, life forevermore.” (Psalm 133)

While the psalmist might have had his own and close-by family in mind, these verses are perfect for the reunion of Joseph and his family. And their moving to a place and culture that had abundant resources. I am sure Joseph and his father Israel thought that the move to Egypt would be good for them and the coming generations, a blessing and life forevermore. But we, beloved reader, are keenly aware (or should be) that any material abundance in this world will not last and transfer over to the world to come. And that is where our true home is.

I was reminded of this by a FB firend who was lamenting that the world we live in now, and how everyone seems so eager and set upon sharing their discontent. That there is no acceptance of differing opinions, and that it seems in the world at large whoever disagrees with you “must be” bullied and shouted down. That there is, in a word, no unity.

While the psalmist may mean “kindred” to be family related by blood or marriage, the broader meaning is the family of God, humanity. There is the “good” and “pleasant” of life together. It is in shalom (increasingly rare in the world at large) where the Lord’s ordained blessing is most often seen. And if the shalom is truly from the Lord God, you can be assured it is good, pleasant, and blessed.

It would probably be easier for me if I were to draw the curtain and not look down the road to where the Israelites went from honored guest to slaves. But turning a blind eye has never been my forte. Neither has being naïve about the way of the world. I am trying these days to support and nurture the pockets and places of the Lord God’s shalom. Rejoicing where I find it, and trying to maintain those places of peace and blessing.

I had once read that humanity cannot be “peace makers”; that is, we can not create peace but can only keep peace where it is found. That seemed kind of pessimistic to me. But I understand that better now. We can keep the peace that the Lord God has created in us. And we can keep the peace that exists between two or more people who have kept the peace that was created by the Lord God and Jesus Christ in them. But we cannot “make” peace where no peace already exists. That is what I was trying to tell my FB friend. That all we cannot do where there is no peace, is not to create (or not create more) disharmony and disunity.

How good and pleasant it is when humanity lives in unity, harmony and peace. It is precious. May you seek and find that peace, beloved reader. Cherishing and nurturing it, keeping it and holding it holy and sacred. Selah!

Season after Pentecost (Proper 15 [20]): The Gospel Passage – What is clean and not clean

Then he called the crowd to him and said to them, “Listen and understand:
it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but it is what comes out of the mouth that defiles.”
Then the disciples approached and said to him, “Do you know that the Pharisees took offense when they heard what you said?” He answered, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted. Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind. And if one blind person guides another, both will fall into a pit.”
But Peter said to him, “Explain this parable to us.” “ (Matthew 15:10 -15)

It was not Jesus’ calm in the face of the Pharisee’s upset that Peter needed explanation of, but that what goes into the mouth does not defile a person. Remember, Peter was raised as a Jew and as such obeyed the dietary laws with the same adherence as the 10 commandments; okay, maybe even more strictly!

Then he said, “Are you also still without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth enters the stomach, and goes out into the sewer? But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this is what defiles. For out of the heart come evil intentions, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile.” (Verses 16 – 20)

While one could spend some good and worthwhile time thinking about, pondering, and then speaking about this passage from Matthew 15, RCL actually does not focus on the verses 15 to 20, but the verses that follow. What I wonder is how the two sections might connect.

Jesus left that place and went away to the district of Tyre and Sidon. Just then a Canaanite woman from that region came out and started shouting, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon.” But he did not answer her at all. And his disciples came and urged him, saying, “Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us.” (Verses 21 – 23)

In order to understand the disciples reaction, you have to understand that a Canaanite woman was not a Jew, and therefore not someone who a Jew who cared about his/her reputation would talk to or pay attention to. Any problems a Canaanite person had were not the concern of a Jew. Jesus’ initial response to here was just what the disciple expected.

“He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” (Verse 24)

And yet, just above in the previous passage Jesus was all for consigning the “blind” Pharisees to be forever lost and not understanding the message that Jesus had to bring. And furthermore, as evidenced by the passage not listed here (verses one to nine) the Pharisees were according to Jesus not following God’s commandments at all. So something more than what is going on at the surface . . . . is going on.

“But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” He answered, “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” (Verses 25 -27)

I encourage you to think about this, beloved reader. What was coming out of this woman’s mouth were words of faith and belief in God, even when it is not part of her cultural or religious heritage.

“Then Jesus answered her, “Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed instantly.” (Verse 28)

Where the Pharisees faltered and failed in keeping faith, this Canaanite woman exhibited faith in Jesus as Divine and capable of healing, and having compassion for all people. Where she might have had different faith practices (ie, eating with unwashed hands) what came from her heart, mind, and mouth were words of faith and belief.

When Jesus was turning upside down long held (but erroneous) ideas and traditions, it is no wonder the disciples needed help in understanding what was meant. And it is at such times that I am very grateful for the theological teaching I received from childhood on up. It is only now, as an adult, that I realize the gift that was given to me. Understanding the “upside down” messages that Jesus told his disciples.

May you, beloved reader, incorporate these teachings of Jesus into your life. Selah!

An Invitation

“Pondering From the Pacific” [https://ponderingfromthepacific.wordpress.com/ ] invites you to move over to that site to continue following the post that had previously been available on on this site, “A Simple Desire”. Sometime later this year “A Simple Desire” will no longer have new posts but function as a repository of the posts from 2007 until fall of 2017. At this point, posts from “A Simple Desire” are no longer posted to Facebook, but posts that are on the site “Pondering From the Pacific” are posted. It is the same sort of content that has been posted on this site since 2015, that is scripture passages from the Revised Common Lectionary. And it is the same author at “Pondering From the Pacific” who has been posting on “A Simple Desire” since 2010.

I did notice a drop in followers, seemingly overnight. And while I can understand that, considering the changes that are taking place, I am hopeful that those who have been following here at “A Simple Desire” would move over to the new site, which actually had its start in 2012. It is now going to be my only active blog site come fall of 2017. Thank you for your interest over the years! And shalom!

Season after Pentecost (Proper 15 [20]): The Epistle Passage – Once again, Paul speaks forth

I ask, then, has God rejected his people? By no means! I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin. God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew.” (Romans 11:1-2a)

Paul, being a Jew and standing firm in that identity, does not believe God can be seen as starting over called a new people. But the Jewish people are not the only ones who are inheritors of God’s favor and blessing. Those blessings are not given lightly, as Paul says further on in the passage.

“For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.” (Verse 29)

What was promised to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob/Israel, and brought about through Joseph and his brothers will not be taken away. But it as been expanded to cover more people, all people actually.

“Just as you were once disobedient to God but have now received mercy because of their disobedience, so they have now been disobedient in order that, by the mercy shown to you, they too may now receive mercy.” (Verses 30 – 31)

Now these verses are interesting. Paul’s audience, the Gentiles, were at one time disobedient and sinful. But through Jesus’ act salvation and mercy they were redeemed. Paul contends (or at least that is one impression one subscribe to) that the Jews can see what has been given to the Gentiles and still claim it for themselves.

As strict as Paul can be at times, he is all for second chances as he was given a second chance.

“For God has imprisoned all in disobedience so that he may be merciful to all.” (Verse 32)

It is interesting to think and consider how Paul who was once Saul – how his life influenced his preaching and teaching. It would not make so much difference if Paul had been no major a teacher than some more contemporary preachers; even considering such preachers as Billy Graham or other such preachers of renown. You see, Paul did not just preach but established scripture. His life experiences and perspective crafted theology as it is taught. And every once in a while that realization creeps under my skin and just itches! I am not saying Paul is wrong; just that the twists and turns of his life have impacted almost 2000 years of Christianity.

And I would go from that point to mount my soapbox about Paul. But the other thing I remember is that Paul never meant to be so influential. So there you are. Paul speaks forth, and we diligently take note.

It is true, we see grace and mercy lived out in the lives of others, and we covet it for ourselves. It is true that everyone has been disobedient, and the Lord God grants mercy to us all. And it is very true that the blessings, gifts, grace, mercy and calling of the Lord God stand forever. Furthermore, beloved reader, it is very very true that no person or group of people have been rejected by the Lord God. No matter their lineage or pedigree, no person is accepted by the Lord God on that basis alone. Nor are they rejected because of lineage, pedigree or self-identification. All are eligible for grace and mercy upon confession of and forgiveness from the Lord God. Selah!

Season after Pentecost (Proper 15 [20]): The Old Testament Passage – The very beginning of the journey of the Hebrews

Then Joseph could no longer control himself before all those who stood by him, and he cried out, “Send everyone away from me.” So no one stayed with him when Joseph made himself known to his brothers.” (Genesis 45:1)

We have conveniently skipped over the part where Joseph made it tough for his brothers, and tested them to see if they were the same unfeeling young men that they were during Joseph’s youth. Joseph’s brothers had matured and were now seasoned and accountable men.

Joseph had grown and matured also – mostly. I think what he did to his brothers in hiding the golden cup in their sacks of grain was sort of extreme. But when it came to extremes of behavior, it ran in the family. So it was no secret that he was extremely moved in revealing himself to his brothers.

“And he wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard it, and the household of Pharaoh heard it.” (Verse 2)

What must the Egyptians thought when they heard Joseph cry like that? Scripture does not tell us. It reminds me of another man called by God, who had to go through great turmoil in the Egyptian palace before his discovered his destiny. Moses was also a man of extreme emotions. But back to the story.

“Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph. Is my father still alive?” But his brothers could not answer him, so dismayed were they at his presence. Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Come closer to me.” And they came closer. He said, “I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. And now do not be distressed, or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life.” (Verses 3 – 5)

I hope Joseph truly believed that; for the sake of his brothers and because, in a way, Joseph was sentencing his people to many years of servitude. Read the following verses with that in mind.

“For the famine has been in the land these two years; and there are five more years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest. God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. So it was not you who sent me here, but God; he has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt. Hurry and go up to my father and say to him, ‘Thus says your son Joseph, God has made me lord of all Egypt; come down to me, do not delay.” (Verses 6 – 9)

It could very well be true that Joseph and his family would not have survived if they had stayed where they were. And being in Egypt, the people who would become the Hebrews/Israelites multiplied, and became a nation within the borders of Egypt.

“You shall settle in the land of Goshen, and you shall be near me, you and your children and your children’s children, as well as your flocks, your herds, and all that you have. I will provide for you there–since there are five more years of famine to come–so that you and your household, and all that you have, will not come to poverty. And now your eyes and the eyes of my brother Benjamin see that it is my own mouth that speaks to you. You must tell my father how greatly I am honored in Egypt, and all that you have seen. Hurry and bring my father down here.” Then he fell upon his brother Benjamin’s neck and wept, while Benjamin wept upon his neck. And he kissed all his brothers and wept upon them; and after that his brothers talked with him.” (Verses 10 – 15)

I had not previously considered that the saving of Joseph’s family and their possessions lead directly (or maybe indirectly) to the Israelites becoming slaves, and in need of being set free. And thinking about it, many generations and nations of people called by God have needed to be set free from circumstances both of their making and things being done to them.

When you consider what all of the people from Abraham through King David to Joseph the earthly father of Jesus have been through, it seems like a practically impossible journey filled with moments where it came close to not working out. And yet it did, culminating in Jesus. And then the outbound journey started again – to all nations!

The other thing I have learned anew from this story of Joseph is that there is no assured safety in this live for believers of God. A very stark fact. Our true home is not this world, but the world to come. We are all “outbound” until we return “home” to the Divine. But what stories we have to tell! And what things we have learned!

May the Lord God watch over your outbound journey, beloved reader, and welcome you home when the time comes! Selah!

Everything Under One Roof

I do not mean this to be a long post or an involved post. It is simply to let you know that I have successfully exported, then imported, all of the posts from 2015 onward. It means that all the posts I wrote as comments and reflections on the Revised Common Lectionary are now on “Pondering From the Pacific.” It is the next logical step in moving operations from one site to the next. And it was step I was not sure was going to work out! It took a couple of tries to get the mechanics involved to work correctly. Once I figured out the correct steps, it did not take much time. I thought I would be laboring for hours to get it done correctly.

I do not say this to tout my own horn, but to compliment and acknowledge that WordPress is a good place to set a blog. I have been grateful over the years that they have made maintaining a blog and easy one. And to you too, beloved and gentle readers for following the blogs as you have.

This next step in the transition means that it becomes more official that posting that was done on “A Simple Desire” [https://asimpledesire.wordpress.com/] will be moving over and posted only on this website, “Pondering From the Pacific” [https://ponderingfromthepacific.wordpress.com/]

The next step, beloved and gentle reader, is for you to switch where you read the posts. And that is actually the part and portion I am most worried about. If you are reading this on “Pondering From the Pacific” I am hopeful you have signed up to follow posts placed here. If you are reading this on “A Simple Desire”, I am hoping that you will switch over. My original plan called for only posting  on “PFtP” (to give it an acronym) at the beginning of 2018. With the ease of each step, that might happen at the beginning of Advent. To reassure all, the posts currently on “ASD” (another acronym) will still be there as long as WordPress allows the site to exist with no new content. It was my “simple desire” to have the overlap of posts only be those related to the Revised Common Lectionary, from 2015 onward.

I am reminded I promised this to be a short post. I have talked previously about my decision. I hope, beloved and gentle reader, you will join me at “Pondering From the Pacific” as we continue to make our way through the lectionary year. Shalom!

Season after Pentecost (Proper 14 [19]): The Psalm Passage – Preacher and Seeker recite praises to the Lord concerning Joseph

Preacher: “O give thanks to the LORD, call on his name, make known his deeds among the peoples.”
Seeker: Praise the Lord, for our God has been mighty amongst us and has shown mercy, grace and justice to the people.
Preacher: “Sing to him, sing praises to him; tell of all his wonderful works.”

Seeker: I will praise the Lord’s name and tell of the wonders that have been done on my behalf!
Preacher: “Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice.”

Seeker: I cried out to the Lord, my Lord God, and I was answered. I searched for assurance and my soul was calmed. My heart and soul felt heavy, and my spirit was in a dark place. But the Lord brought light, and my gloom vanished. Now I rejoice for I dwell within the Lord’s favor and love.
Preacher: “Seek the LORD and his strength; seek his presence continually.”

Seeker: I sought the Lord when I was weak, my strength nearly gone. My knees were weak and shook beneath me. My arms were tired, and eyes closed in fatigue. The Lord gave me rest, and revived me. Now I sing the Lord’s praises and my body is filled with the strength of the Lord.
Preacher: “Remember the wonderful works he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he uttered,
O offspring of his servant Abraham, children of Jacob, his chosen ones.”

Seeker: I have read stories of the Lord’s mercy and favor. It is good news to my ears that Lord does not abandon the Divine’s children that have been called out.
Preacher: “When he summoned famine against the land, and broke every staff of bread, he had sent a man ahead of them, Joseph, who was sold as a slave.”

Seeker: Joseph was taken from his family had settled, and traveled to a distant land. But the Lord was with him.
Preacher: “His feet were hurt with fetters, his neck was put in a collar of iron; until what he had said came to pass, the word of the LORD kept testing him.”

Seeker: Joseph was sorely tested, refined in the fires of tribulation. But his spirit shone bright because the Lord was with him.
Preacher: “The king sent and released him; the ruler of the peoples set him free.”

Seeker: Joseph worked under the king’s supervision, but he served the Lord first.
Preacher: “He made him lord of his house, and ruler of all his possessions, to instruct his officials at his pleasure, and to teach his elders wisdom.”

Seeker: Joseph accomplished many things, and received great honor. He extended a compassionate hand to his family, and the people who lived in the land of famine received relief. Joseph honored to the Name of the Lord, and the Lord was faithful in the promises given to Joseph’s family.
Preacher: “Praise the LORD!“

(Psalm 105: 1-6, 16-22, 45b)