Season After Pentecost: The Psalms Passage – Preacher and Seek speak out

Preacher: “O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever.
Seeker: “Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, those he redeemed from trouble and gathered in from the lands, from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south.”

Preacher: We are spread throughout the globe, beloved listeners. On every continent there are people of good hearts and of strong faith who mourn what has befallen their brothers and sisters. We pray to our Lord that those are hurt, in pain, and whose lives have been devastated might be gathered up in the Lord’s comfort and grace.

Seeker: “Some wandered in desert wastes, finding no way to an inhabited town; hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted within them. Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress; he led them by a straight way, until they reached an inhabited town.”

Preacher: But it is not just the task of the Lord’s, beloved listener, to gather up those who are hurt and broken. It is our task to! We are the hands and feet of the Lord. We carry within us the capacity to show similar love and carrying as the Lord does. No, we cannot heal as the Lord does, and sadly we cannot love with the same consistent and eternal love as the Lord does, but we can bring that love to those we meet.
Seeker: “Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wonderful works to humankind. For he satisfies the thirsty, and the hungry he fills with good things.” (Psalm 107:1-9)

Preacher: What more can I say to you, beloved listener? What can I say that will move your heart? That will move your spirit and soul? How much longer must I and those who speak and believe as I do preach to you – until love covers the world? As long as one act of violence, one instance of hatred is carried out, our mission will not be over. We must preach and exhort love until it rules and guides each heart!

Seeker: Let those who are wise give heed to these things, and consider the steadfast love of the Lord.” (Verse 43) Selah!

Season After Pentecost: The Gospel Passage – A lot can go a long way!

Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.” But he said to him, “Friend, who set me to be a judge or arbitrator over you?” And he said to them, “Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.” (Luke 12:13-15)

Teachers, or Rabbis in Jewish cultures, often mediate situations making decisions according and in accordance with Jewish laws. So the request was not too unusual. But this person in the crowd, I do not think, had an accurate understanding of who he was asking. Jesus was not about material possessions but living wisely and in harmony with others and creation. The story that Jesus is a good caution against putting worth in material possessions.

Then he told them a parable: “The land of a rich man produced abundantly. And he thought to himself, ‘What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?’ Then he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’ But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.” (Verses 16 – 21)

I’m not sure I need to do much more pondering or teaching on this. (But I cannot resist saying a little bit.) The message is clear; our purpose on this world is not to accumulate large amount of possession in this life and then take our ease. We take nothing in the world to come that we have materially collected in this world. Why would we deliberately not prepare for what is to come beyond this world? The Lord has given us our entire lives to prepare for the existence that comes after this one; why would we squander it on pursuits and endeavors that do not last? What we gain in this world more than what our needs are, we can and should help others.

Now this voice in the crowd might have had a legitimate dispute with his brother, and might have been asking only what was right and fair. We do not and cannot know (although some biblical commentators might think they can) so we should not be quick to judge. But . . .let us take the lesson from Jesus’ parable. Let us use what we have been blessed with to bless others. Whether it be ample possessions, abilities, talents, skills or knowledge – what we have, can do, and know can be a blessing to others! Let it be so – selah!

Season After Pentecost: The Epistle Passage – How we ought to live

Last week we considered whether the writer of Colossians was reproving the church at Colossus or whether he was exhorting and encouraging them. While I do not present myself as an expert on such things, my sense was that it was a church that was new and still testing out how to live. The writer of Colossians seems to be setting out basics of faith, or at least what we who have been will soaked in the faith consider basics.

So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.” (Colossians 3: 1 – 4)

However even those of us who have weathered much need to be reminded of how to live for, and according to Christ.

Put to death, therefore, whatever in you is earthly: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed (which is idolatry). On account of these the wrath of God is coming on those who are disobedient. These are the ways you also once followed, when you were living that life. But now you must get rid of all such things—anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive language from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have stripped off the old self with its practices and have clothed yourselves with the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator. In that renewal there is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all! (Verses 5 – 11)

Core basics of how to treat each other, live with each other, and interact with each other. The writer of Colossians may have told the believers that this is how they should treat each other. But I tell you beloved reader it should also be the way you treat those who are not a part of your faith circle. I have been “hammering home” lately the dichotomy between the events of the past few weeks and living as called people of God. And it would be tempting to call it a “sign of our times.” But the truth is that humanity has lived in opposition to itself for all the generations of recorded history, and most likely before that.

So, I want to step down from that “soapbox” and simply move forward. There is portions of scripture ahead and they deserve to be seen and pondered upon for what they have to say. But I will not hesitate to speak out again as the situation and the scripture passages merit. Thank for listening/reading me beloved reader. Shalom!

Season After Pentecost: The Old Testament Passage – The Lord undertakes for the called people

We have come to the part of Hosea where the Lord’s voice comes through, as opposed to the story of Hosea and is taking of a cheating wife to live out the example of Israel being unfaithful to God. As always, if these portions of scripture peak your interest, I encourage you to read the surrounding passages and see the larger context.

When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son.
The more I called them, the more they went from me; they kept sacrificing to the Baals, and offering incense to idols.” (Hosea 11:1-2)

Verse 1, in this context, does not refer to the son of God being called out of Egypt, but the Hebrews being rescued from Egypt and the Pharaoh. The Lord, through the writer of Hosea, is bemoaning the fact that the Lord undertook to bring them out of Egypt and into the land that was promised to them. But even in the first part of the journey, the Hebrews showed that they could not quite get the hang living according to God’s statutes. But the Lord never gave up on them.

Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk, I took them up in my arms; but they did not know that I healed them. I led them with cords of human kindness, with bands of love. I was to them like those who lift infants to their cheeks. I bent down to them and fed them.” (Verses 3 – 4)

This makes me think of all the times we go through rough periods and patches in our lives. We sometimes may think it is our own strength, might, and endurance that gets us through. But in reality it could very well be likely that it is the Lord undertaking for us and helping us without our even knowing. Those who keep themselves aware and open to the Divine realize these things – or at least realize it some of the time. There are many, beloved reader, who have no idea that the Lord is looking out for them.

They shall return to the land of Egypt, and Assyria shall be their king, because they have refused to return to me. The sword rages in their cities, it consumes their oracle-priests, and devours because of their schemes.
My people are bent on turning away from me.” (Verses 5 – 7a)

The Israelites ignored God at their own peril. Or at least that is the way the writer of Hosea interprets it. I am not fully committed to jump on that “band wagon.” The image of the Lord leaving the called people to their own peril does not sit well with me; it argues against a caring and compassionate Lord. Yet . . . yet, we live in a fallen and broken world. The Divine hand NOT coming between us and the perils in this world is very likely. NOT because the Lord does not care, but because human will is being given free reign, and not every human follows the Lord.

“To the Most High they call, but he does not raise them up at all.

How can I give you up, Ephraim? How can I hand you over, O Israel?
How can I make you like Admah? How can I treat you like Zeboiim?
My heart recoils within me; my compassion grows warm and tender.
I will not execute my fierce anger; I will not again destroy Ephraim;

for I am God and no mortal, the Holy One in your midst, and I will not come in wrath.” (Verses 7b – 9)

Last time I wrote I was very “fiery” in my rhetoric, exhorting and pleading that we might ask for restoration from the Lord. Today I do not have that fire “in my belly”; maybe tomorrow or later in the week. Today I am an observer and a ponderer.

They shall go after the Lord, who roars like a lion; when he roars, his children shall come trembling from the west.
They shall come trembling like birds from Egypt, and like doves from the land of Assyria; and I will return them to their homes, says the Lord.” (Verses 10 -11)

What I see today, beloved reader, is the writer of Hosea trying to reach his readers and convince them to return to the Lord, and receive the blessing and rescue that is there. The Lord undertakes for the called people in unique and sometimes puzzling ways. But one that is sure and certain is that the ways of the world, the peril that might be in our every day, should make us seek out the Lord and draw on that strength. May you do so, beloved reader. Selah!

Season After Pentecost: The Psalms Passage – Prayer for the Restoration of God’s Favor

LORD, you were favorable to your land; you restored the fortunes of Jacob.
You forgave the iniquity of your people; you pardoned all their sin.

You withdrew all your wrath; you turned from your hot anger.

(Psalms 85:1-3)

I can not take any credit for the title of this, beloved reader, because it is what the NRSV has for the heading for this psalm. I can take credit, however, for deciding it is a good one for me to use. Just as we can take no credit for the grace and blessing that God bestows on us, but we can take credit for passing on that grace and blessing to others. And in light of the recent events in our world, I think it would be a fine thing to give grace and blessing to each life in our global community. It seems there has been far too little of that going one. And, it is a fine thing, a very very fine thing, to pray for restoration for a our global community.

Certainly there is every appearance and fact that not everyone in our global community wishes to live in harmony with each other person. The events fo the past two weeks give ample proof of that. I can just imagine what Preacher and Seeker would have to say. And it may not be to farfetched a thing to say they are in mourning over the recent events – not to mention what might happen between the time I write this and you read it.

Restore us again, O God of our salvation, and put away your indignation toward us.” (Verse 4)

God’s favor is something that our world desperately needs. It may not be something that some think others deserve, whatever the reason, rationale, or (dare I say it) bias/prejudice. But I tell you . . . exhort you . . . assure you . . . that God’s favor is for all. The writer of psalms may have thought God’s favor had left the people in light of what was happening. Remember, however, this was written before the coming of Jesus and the assurance through Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection that God’s love in eternal and unchanging.

“Will you be angry with us forever? Will you prolong your anger to all generations?
Will you not revive us again, so that your people may rejoice in you?” (Verses 5 -6)

Ah, here is the key beloved reader. And Preacher/Seeker would be the first to point it out that many times . . . too many times . . . the “people” rejoice in God only when things are going well. When things are going . . . not well – think of the recent events in our world – the “people” fear and bemoan the times, the situation, and the other “people” who have caused the “not well-ness.” But that is the whole problem beloved reader; this “them/us” mindset where one group of people are given lesser value and important than others – it is literally killing us! We need to, for our very survival! Extend God’s favor and blessing to everyone! EVERYONE! Yes, EVERYONE!!!! If we allow the hatred that one person’s or one group’s action effect how we relate to each other, we have denied the possibility of God’s favor extending to them, and have set the stage for more violence.

Now, you may think I just mean certain groups or situations, but I am talking about even those who oppress, persecute, and yes, kill others. That does not mean we do not recognize their sin and evil intent. And we must restrain and stop them from allowing their sin and evil to cause more harm. But we also must make sure that our rejection to the sin and evil does not cause us to spread sin and evil that forms and festers in our own hearts! We, those who are suffering in all manner of ways, need God’s restoration too. And let it be that God’s favor heals the wounds in our hearts and the hearts, souls, and lives of those who have been brutally wounded.

“Show us your steadfast love, O Lord, and grant us your salvation.
Let me hear what God the Lord will speak, for he will speak peace to his people, to his faithful, to those who turn to him in their hearts.” (Verses 7 – 8)

I have often asked myself in these last two weeks what I can do in the face of this. What can I do? I am not a person who attends rallies and speaks to the crowds. I do not belong to any group that marches or demonstrates or protests. I once did such things, but not now. And I have found that my efforts to add to what has been written social media forums has not resulted in good outcomes. So here I am, simply writing here on my blog, trying to address the issue of the day by putting forth scripture and commenting on it. And living peaceably with all those around me. Not much when you add it up. Yet . . . . .

Surely his salvation is at hand for those who fear him, that his glory may dwell in our land.” (Verse 9)

If I can, through my small efforts, show “fear” for the Lord and encourage “fear” that is love, honor, reverence, and devotion to/for the Lord – then I have done much. And you, beloved reader, can do the same!

Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet; righteousness and peace will kiss each other.
Faithfulness will spring up from the ground, and righteousness will look down from the sky.
The Lord will give what is good, and our land will yield its increase.

Righteousness will go before him, and will make a path for his steps.” (Verses 10 – 13)

This is a prayer, and a hope, that the psalmist set forth. And it is also a promise that some day will have its fulfillment. We wait for that day, we long for that day; and, most importantly, we work towards that day in whatever ways we can and when ever we can spreading that love that we KNOW is from God. Because in these days human love just is not enough. We need to connect to the love that is from and of God. And that love will restore us! Selah!

Season After Pentecost: The Epistles Passage – Paul’s “tender” side

As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.” (Colossians 2:6-7)

It is interesting to read the epistles and try to figure out if they were living according to the writer of the epistles (most probably Paul) perspective on the Christian life or whether they (as a church) had gotten side tracked by other things, concerns, and agendas.

See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the universe, and not according to Christ. For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have come to fullness in him, who is the head of every ruler and authority. In him also you were circumcised with a spiritual circumcision, by putting off the body of the flesh in the circumcision of Christ; when you were buried with him in baptism, you were also raised with him through faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead. And when you were dead in trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive together with him, when he forgave us all our trespasses, erasing the record that stood against us with its legal demands. He set this aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and made a public example of them, triumphing over them in it.” (Verses 7 – 15)

At first it may be hard to discern from this passage whether the believers in Colossus were living wisely in their new faith or not. The sense seems to be that they WERE new in the faith (that is, at the time of this writing the church was only just established/formed). Paul tends to be gentler with new believers, especially if their intentions are/were good. It is more of a letter of guidance and further teaching then an admonishment of unwise choices. The RCL specifically includes this passage only up to verse 15, but acknowledges that the passage does continue, and so shall we.

Therefore do not let anyone condemn you in matters of food and drink or of observing festivals, new moons, or sabbaths. These are only a shadow of what is to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. Do not let anyone disqualify you, insisting on self-abasement and worship of angels, dwelling on visions, puffed up without cause by a human way of thinking, and not holding fast to the head, from whom the whole body, nourished and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows with a growth that is from God.” (Verses 16 – 19)

These further verses seem to confirm the newness of belief, that they are still learning how their new faith does and should impact their lives. And again, Paul is gentle and encouraging with his guidance, as one would be with small children who are learning how the world works.

Again, I am writing ahead and living through what was going on at the time of this writing. I seem to remember writing before/one week ago that not being able to foresee the future I was not sure if the issues at the time would be as large in the coming week. The same is true now – it is France and more specifically Nice that was on the fore front. Not that other issues and other places in the world were not as needful or poignant. I have thought more often recently that considering the pace that things happen, maybe my posting is to be closer to an “in the present” time line. I do not have any illusion that these postings will travel down through time as Paul’s writings have.

Oh beloved reader, it is a fast passed and changing world we live in. Oh for the times gone by when such gentle letters were sent to believers, encouraging them in the Christian life and promising better things and hope for the future. In our present times, what hope can I offer you? But the Spirit reminds me that suffering and persecution was the lot of Christian believers, and that Paul himself suffered much for the faith.

Do you suffer, beloved reader? Are you hard pressed and living in dangerous places and dangerous times? Readership is more and more scattered throughout the globe I think, based on what this hosting website tells me of new followers. If I can offer some measure of hope by calling to mind scripture and encouraging you to look to the Divine for support and guidance, I am gratified.

May the Holy Spirit instruct you with gentleness and patience, and may the Lord God support and nurture you in these troubled times! Selah!

Season After Pentecost: The Gospel Passage – Back to the basics, like prayer

He was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” (Luke 11:1)

For those who knew Jesus, knew him as a man who worked the earth, they knew where the place was that he prayed, or where his favorite places to pray were. Matthew, Mark, James, Peter, and John – they knew where he was when he was off praying. And those were times when he was not to be disturbed, and they I am sure guarded and protected Jesus alone time with God. But when he was done and ready to rejoin the group, they asked – teach us to pray.

He said to them, “When you pray, say:
Father, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread.
And forgive us our sins,
for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us.
And do not bring us to the time of trial.” (Verses 2 – 4)

In some gospels the pray is a little bit longer with more of the familiar parts to it that have come down to us. But the important parts are there. This is prayer to a God who loves us as a parent loves a child – unconditionally and without end. But this is also a God who is holy above and beyond all of our understanding. This a God who has plans for us, and plans for creation; and some days those plans will come to completion. This is a God who provides for us; not only for our bodily needs but for our need of forgiveness – which reminds me that this year’s lectionary theme is confession, penance, and forgiveness. How wonderful that this passage brings that theme back around – or at least back to my attention!

And he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; for a friend of mine has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him.’ And he answers from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been locked, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.’ I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, at least because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs.
So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”(Verses 5 -13)

When we truly ask the Lord for what our deepest needs are, we do not ask in vain. There is a commonly used phrase – “The Lord will not give more than you can handle.” But I do not know that is completely true. I know there have been things “given” into my life that I cannot handle. Plain straight-up truth – I can not handle them. So how have I survived them, thus far? Because what I cannot handle, God does. Now, you may say that God “gave” me what was needed. But I do not and can not put such faith in my self. It was God who did the doing and handling.

So, how do we tie this all together? Prayer. We pray to God, as Jesus taught his disciples to pray. We pray – maybe not in ways that seem obvious and explicit for the need of confession, penance, and forgiveness – but God gets the message that is what we need. We pray for what we need to handle things in this life. And assurance that in the life to come we will be with God. And God gives us these things – the things we truly need; and not the things that would harm us.

May you pray, beloved reader. May you pray the prayers that God and our Lord Jesus Christ has taught you. Selah!