Season After Pentecost – Praising God in the midst of the City (The Psalms Passage)

Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised in the city of our God.
His holy mountain, beautiful in elevation, is the joy of all the earth,
Mount Zion, in the far north, the city of the great King.
Within its citadels God has shown himself a sure defense.” (Psalms 48:1-3)

I had a frustrating day today – not that is, the day you are reading this beloved reader; but the day I wrote it. In-between not feeling good were times of figuring out and arranging, and trying to remember what I wanted to do before I was interrupted from what as was doing before/after the previous interruption. So I was glad to see that it was the Psalms Passage that was next on the schedule. I had fears that it might have been the Old Testament Passage and I was not sure I was equal to dealing with that. But hey! It is the end of the day! I can praise God for that and getting me through the day!

Then the kings assembled, they came on together.
As soon as they saw it, they were astounded; they were in panic, they took to flight; trembling took hold of them there, pains as of a woman in labor, as when an east wind shatters “the ships of Tarshish.” (Verses 4 – 7)

Does not sound like the assembled kings were having any better a day than I was. In fact, I think I may have done better than they! I did not run away from my day! I did not panic! I was not in pain – at least not because of the day at work. I did not shatter!!

But of course, neither was I coming to God as an adversary or enemy which is the sense of these verses, that the assembled kings came to the holy city (meaning the city of David I think) in order to assess it and see if they could attack it and win. Rather than coming against the holy city as an adversary, I was seeking God in my day and had asked the Lord to be with me.


As we have heard, so have we seen in the city of the Lord of hosts, in the city of our God, which God establishes forever. Selah” (Verse 8)

In the day of the psalmist, the city of our God was a geographical place. It existed in space and time. So that one could go to it, and see it, checking out whether it matched up to its reputation. In our day the city of the Lord of hosts in not in any specific geographical place but exists as a spiritual reality – and no, that is not an incompatible idea. The Lord’s city exists, but it is made out of faith and belief in the power of God; and since the power of the Lord will never fail, it exists forever!

We ponder your steadfast love, O God, in the midst of your temple.
Your name, O God, like your praise, reaches to the ends of the earth.
Your right hand is filled with victory.

Let Mount Zion be glad, let the towns of Judah rejoice because of your judgments.” (Verses 9-11)

Whether it is the time of the psalmist, or our modern times, the Lord is worthy of praise.

Walk about Zion, go all around it, count its towers, consider well its ramparts; go through its citadels,
that you may tell the next generation that this is God, our God forever and ever. He will be our guide forever.” (Verses 12 – 14)

How, you may ask beloved reader, are you supposed to walk around and tour a “spiritual reality”? I would love to leave that question hovering around you, beloved reader. I could, I suppose try to explain it. But I am not sure my explanation would be helpful or illuminating. You sort of have to experience it to understand it. Perhaps the best thing to do is to wait until this posts, and then see if any one of you asks for an explanation.

May the Lord ease all of your days, beloved reader, and may you dwell in the city of the Lord of hosts. Selah!

Advertisements

Season After Pentecost – Being Healed (The Gospel Passage)

When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered around him; and he was by the sea. Then one of the leaders of the synagogue named Jairus came and, when he saw him, fell at his feet and begged him repeatedly, “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live.” So he went with him. And a large crowd followed him and pressed in on him. (Mark 5:21-24)

First, I want to mention and then set aside several issues on healing. Not everyone who gets sick enough to die gets better. That might sound kind of inane, but what I mean is that good and true Christians get sick, pray to God with others for healing but die anyway. You cannot judge the depth and breadth of a person’s faith according to whether their prayers, or the prayers for them, result in healing. Sometimes “healing” on comes through death. So what Jairus ask of Jesus is indeed a miracle – totally counter to what was the norm then and now. We will come back to that a little further on.

Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years. She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse. She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, for she said, “If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.” Immediately her hemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease.” (Verses 25-29)

I thought I understood the plight of this woman, but because of now suffering myself from a disease that I have seen a good many doctors for I can understand at a greater depth her suffering. At one time I felt sympathy for her because of the type of illness she had – the abnormal shedding of blood, which in the society that Jesus lived in would have ostracized her. But now I sympathize with her because she had sought treatment from so many but nothing helped and it only grew worse. I feel that way too. I also admire her faith and belief that Jesus could heal her with just a touch. I long ago gave up on my being healed through the spiritual touch of God/Jesus; and if I was in her place, knowing what she probably knew of Jesus (meaning as a prophet and man of God but not Divine) I am not sure I could have held the same faith as she did.

Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my clothes?” And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, ‘Who touched me?’” He looked all around to see who had done it. But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.” (Verses 30-34)

It is not enough to want to be healed – I want to be healed! It is believing you will be healed. THAT is what drains power from the cloak of the Divine. I still have my afflictions; but I have also touched the spiritual cloak of the Divine believing that despite my afflictions I can keep going. And that has happened time and time again. My healing is not the woman’s healing in this story; but it is sufficient.

While he was still speaking, some people came from the leader’s house to say, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the teacher any further?” But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the leader of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.” He allowed no one to follow him except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James. When they came to the house of the leader of the synagogue, he saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. When he had entered, he said to them, “Why do you make a commotion and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping.” And they laughed at him.” (Verses 35-40a)

“Your disease is rare, and treatment for it is drastic. You must accept the inevitable.” When I read about what I had, I did despair. And it would have been easy to scale back all my activities and withdraw. But I decided to keep on doing what I felt called to do and needed to do. I am not giving up anything! I used to be afraid, but now I journey forth in belief and faith. And I have found a group of people to support me in my journey, as I support them.

Jesus knew what he would accomplish, and the small details – like the girl had passed away – was not going to stop the Lord Jesus. It would require unshakable believe, however, to accomplish this.

Then he put them all outside, and took the child’s father and mother and those who were with him, and went in where the child was. He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha cum,” which means, “Little girl, get up!” And immediately the girl got up and began to walk about (she was twelve years of age). At this they were overcome with amazement. He strictly ordered them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.(Verses 40b -43)

While this is the stuff of miracles, it is also grounded in normal life. When the body is alive, it needs food to continue its processes. And people make much hoopla and fanfare out of miracles. With all my afflictions, I still get up everyday and accomplish the things that need to be done. I have wondered more than once if I should just stop posting on this blog and shut it down. But the Spirit calls me to keep writing. It has become like food and drink to me.

May you, beloved reader, have faith to reach out to the spiritual cloak of our Lord for healing; and may our God bring you back to life when you feel ill and weary of all manner of things. Selah!

Season After Pentecost – Sneaky things for good causes (The Epistles Passage)

Now as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in utmost eagerness, and in our love for you—so we want you to excel also in this generous undertaking.” (II Corinthians 8:7)

The writer of II Corinthians wants money – not for himself, but for another faith circle that the writer of II Corinthians has establish. That faith group is undergoing some hardships, and a gift from another faith group would not only relief their suffering but prove to them that they are not alone in this new faith.

I do not say this as a command, but I am testing the genuineness of your love against the earnestness of others. For you know the generous act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich.” (Verses 8-9)

It seems that material possessions and position/stature are being intermingled in the writer of II Corinthian’s mind. I do not think that Jesus Christ had sacks of gold, nor would something like that appeal to the Divine. And I suspect if I think about this theological/philosophical issue that the writer of II Corinthians is setting up, I will get more and more stirred up, so let us move on.

And in this matter I am giving my advice: it is appropriate for you who began last year not only to do something but even to desire to do something— now finish doing it, so that your eagerness may be matched by completing it according to your means. For if the eagerness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has—not according to what one does not have. I do not mean that there should be relief for others and pressure on you, but it is a question of a fair balance between your present abundance and their need, so that their abundance may be for your need, in order that there may be a fair balance. As it is written,
The one who had much did not have too much, and the one who had little did not have too little.”
(Verses 10-15)

Abundance and need, sufficiency and deficiency, are very subjective terms. What might be little for one is wealth for another – depending on one’s point of view and relative position in society. Maybe the reader’s of II Corinthians had in mind “wealth” that is in heaven, and were humbled that Jesus left that for their sake. And so perhaps sharing what they had above and beyond what they needed to sustain themselves would seem like imitating Christ. The writer of II Corinthians was not above playing one group against another, engendering benevolence and philanthropy to tie two geographically distant groups.

We do the same thing in our modern day, sending help to other parts of the world and going to help them. So my criticism of the writer of II Corinthians (yes, Paul) is not severe or deep. He was, after all, a good “arranger” of ideas, philosophies, and people. I have been known to exhibit that trait myself. Maybe that is why it catches my attention when I see it in others!

We all, beloved reader, must make sure our actions and outcomes support the mission of Christ and our Lord God. We must examine both our means and motivations. It is part of being in ministry and leadership for Christ’s sake. May you beloved reader take care in what you plan to do and in how you accomplish your plans. Selah!

Season After Pentecost – Crying out to the Lord (The Psalms Passage)

Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord.
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.” (Psalm 130: 1-4)

There are few things equal to a good “shout out” to the Lord.

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.” (Verses 5-6)

I have known long nights; nights filled with wondering and dread. Nights when I am not sure which way to turn. The condition I have can cause stress and anxiety, especially after long tiring days. I weep and fear, sometimes not knowing what I fear but simply fearing. Very few times there is someone to comfort me, so I comfort myself. It’s okay, I tell myself. It will be alright. Everything will work out. So I put myself to bed; and in the morning everything looks better and I can handle what ever might come. Until evening, and then can start all over again.

You may have wondered, beloved reader, why I set these posts to publish at 30 minutes past midnight. There is a reason. It is my wish that no matter how early you start your day, that you are able if you so chose to start it reading these scriptures. So that there might be some light in the dark of the night that will lead you safe into 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 7-8)

May you, beloved reader, find comfort in the presence of the Lord, and may you be delivered and redeemed from all your fears. Selah!

Season After Pentecost – How the mighty have fallen (The Old Testament Passage)

[I discovered that each Sunday after Pentecost is numbered and I just couldn’t face continuing to number then all – so, it is just the season after Pentecost now!]

After the death of Saul, when David had returned from defeating the Amalekites, David remained two days in Ziklag.” (II Samuel 1:1)

War is an ugly thing. I have personally have not actually witnessed a war, that is armed combat between two or more real living people where blood is spilled and bodies wounded. But I do not need to see that in order to know war and battles are ugly. And if I had ever, or ever do, see a war and battle, I would need more than two days to recover. But that’s just me.

The the middle portion of chapter one from II Samuel is the telling by the Amalekite of the death of Saul; it does not quite line up with the story from the end of I Samuel. But as I said, war and battle are ugly, and also confusing. One of the two stories might be more accurate. David’s response to the Amalekite was to kill him for killing God’s anointed. It might have been better for that reporter to go with the other story that Saul fell on his own sword.

David’s response and reaction to Saul and Jonathon’s death takes up verse 17 to 27.

David intoned this lamentation over Saul and his son Jonathan. (He ordered that The Song of the Bow be taught to the people of Judah; it is written in the Book of Jashar.)
He said:
Your glory, O Israel, lies slain upon your high places! How the mighty have fallen!
Tell it not in Gath, proclaim it not in the streets of Ashkelon; or the daughters of the Philistines will rejoice, the daughters of the uncircumcised will exult.

You mountains of Gilboa, let there be no dew or rain upon you, nor bounteous fields!
For there the shield of the mighty was defiled, the shield of Saul, anointed with oil no more.

From the blood of the slain, from the fat of the mighty, the bow of Jonathan did not turn back,
nor the sword of Saul return empty.

Saul and Jonathan, beloved and lovely!
In life and in death they were not divided; they were swifter than eagles, they were stronger than lions.

O daughters of Israel, weep over Saul, who clothed you with crimson, in luxury, who put ornaments of gold on your apparel.
How the mighty have fallen in the midst of the battle!
Jonathan lies slain upon your high places. I am distressed for you, my brother Jonathan;
greatly beloved were you to me; your love to me was wonderful,passing the love of women.

How the mighty have fallen, and the weapons of war perished!
(II Samuel 1:17-27)

“How the mighty have fallen” is usually understand as meaning that those who were in high and lofty positions are now in low and fallen positions. And it is often because they set their sights too high and have reached such a position could not maintain it. David who would become King David might have benefited from this bit of wisdom. But David meant it as a eulogy and praise. Despite all that Saul tried to do to David, David never set out to harm Saul. And that has to mean something when looking at David’s life. And we will be looking at David’s life as the weeks go by. The RCL in the Old Testament passages follows David’s kingship. It is much like a parade passing by. But let us remember this phrase and idea, how the mighty have fallen. And see, maybe, how mighty King David might fall.

Fourth Sunday After Pentecost – Beginnings and what we encounter along the way (Old Testament and Psalm Passages)

On David’s return from killing the Philistine, Abner took him and brought him before Saul, with the head of the Philistine in his hand. Saul said to him, “Whose son are you, young man?” And David answered, “I am the son of your servant Jesse the Bethlehemite.” (I Samuel 17:57-58)

We know the story of David and his victory over the the Philistine, Goliath. It is the story of righteousness defeating overwhelming odds. A thrilling and inspiring story, the fulfillment of the prophet Samuel choosing young David out of his bigger and older brothers. But it is also the beginning of David’s journey to being King David. The beginning of King Saul’s downfall. It is the beginning, also, of the Hebrew people’s fall from God’s grace. It is a beginning of many things.

When David had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was bound to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul. Saul took him that day and would not let him return to his father’s house. Then Jonathan made a covenant with David, because he loved him as his own soul. Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that he was wearing, and gave it to David, and his armor, and even his sword and his bow and his belt. David went out and was successful wherever Saul sent him; as a result, Saul set him over the army. And all the people, even the servants of Saul, approved.” (I Samuel 181-:5)

You might get the impression that Jonathan was not the type of warrior that David was. It seems unusual that David would be out on the battlefield, winning victories, when you might expect the son of the king doing that sort of thing. It did not seem to bother Jonathon. David loved Jonathon as much as Jonathon loved David. The bible makes it very clear that it was not the type of love a man has for a woman, but what we would call in our day and age, bro-mance. Unfortunately, Jonathon’s father, King Saul, did not have the same kind of warm-fuzzy feeling – at least not consistently.

The next day an evil spirit from God rushed upon Saul, and he raved within his house, while David was playing the lyre, as he did day by day. Saul had his spear in his hand; and Saul threw the spear, for he thought, “I will pin David to the wall.” But David eluded him twice.
Saul was afraid of David, because the Lord was with him but had departed from Saul. So Saul removed him from his presence, and made him a commander of a thousand; and David marched out and came in, leading the army. David had success in all his undertakings; for the Lord was with him. When Saul saw that he had great success, he stood in awe of him. But all Israel and Judah loved David; for it was he who marched out and came in leading them.” (Verses 10-16)

Those that are favored by the Lord rarely have an easy time of it; or at least it can appear that way. Now, being “favored by the Lord” can has several meanings or interpretations. “Favor” can truly mean life is good and easy. Or it can mean the Lord calls on one for many tasks and missions that need to be accomplished in the Lord’s name. Perhaps David could be seen as both; tough times throughout is rule but living as a actual and literal king with all the wealth and privilege that comes along with it.

That experience might be what lead the psalmist, who might have been King David, to pen Psalm 133.

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)

When read in conjunction with the story of young David being introduced to Saul’s court, there is both irony and illumination. Saul grew to hate David, wishing him dead. Jonathon grew to love David more, defying his father to save David’s life.

The other set of scripture that the RCL has for this day is I Samuel 17: (1a, 4-11, 19-23) 32 – 49 and Psalm 9:9-20. That section, verses 32-49, is the story of young David killing Goliath, and what lead up to that confrontation on the battle field. There, before David became a thorn in his side, King Saul cared about him and was loath to let him fight. The Psalm accompaniment has both praise and petition to the Lord – praising God for being our champion and petition that God might save and preserve us.

When we are called by God we often do not know what will happen or what we will encounter. To step out in faith sometimes takes a great deal of faith and courage. We do not know if we will find friends or enemies along the way. What we can know and depend on is that God will journey with us. May you, beloved reader, be brave at your beginnings and may you find friends, companionship and the blessing of God along the way. Selah!

Fourth Sunday After Pentecost – Coming to know the Almighty Lord (An Old Testament and Psalm Passage)

[This week there is a surplus of Old Testament and Psalm passages to chose from. And because I could not pick just one set, today and tomorrow I am going to comment on two out of the three sets – one set today and one set tomorrow.]

Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind:
Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?
Gird up your loins like a man, I will question you, and you shall declare to me.

Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding.
Who determined its measurements—surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it?
On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone when the morning stars sang together and all the heavenly beings shouted for joy?

Or who shut in the sea with doors when it burst out from the womb?— when I made the clouds its garment, and thick darkness its swaddling band, and prescribed bounds for it, and set bars and doors,
and said, ‘Thus far shall you come, and no farther, and here shall your proud waves be stopped’?” (Job 38:1-11)

God continues to question Job, and Job does not have very much of an answer. Indeed, who could form a worthy response that could compare to the glory that is the Lord. In answer to the question of the Lord, “Who are you to question Me?” the proper response is, I am no one and nothing.” What one should do instead is praise God instead of, as Job did, question why the Lord does as the Divine does.

O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever.
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.” (Psalms 107:1-3)

But this is only one aspect of God – this thundering God who speaks from the storm and asks why humanity should question the Almighty. Jesus came as an approachable God who welcomed questions and longed to reveal himself. Remember the passage from Mark we looked at Monday; remember too the passage from II Corinthians where the writer of Corinthians urges his readers to accept the gift of salvation offered by a God who wants to be known. The writer of II Corinthians lists all the things he and his fellow missionaries have gone through in order to bring the news of salvation to the Corinthians and others. Read the other section of Psalms 107 that is paired with this passage from Job.

Some went down to the sea in ships, doing business on the mighty waters;
they saw the deeds of the Lord, his wondrous works in the deep.
For he commanded and raised the stormy wind, which lifted up the waves of the sea.
They mounted up to heaven, they went down to the depths; their courage melted away in their calamity; they reeled and staggered like drunkards, and were at their wits’ end.
Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he brought them out from their distress; he made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed.
Then they were glad because they had quiet, and he brought them to their desired haven.
Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wonderful works to humankind.
Let them extol him in the congregation of the people, and praise him in the assembly of the elders.

(Verses 23-32)

We see the theme again of the power that the seas have, and we remember that Jesus calmed the sea. Surely than Jesus is of God, for who but the Creator of the seas could calm them. God might have questioned Job fiercely, but all that Job had was restored to him when he acknowledge the Supremacy of the the Lord.

We will look tomorrow at the other set of Old Testament and Psalms matching, and see what learnings we will find there. Selah!