Season after Pentecost (Proper 21 [26]): The Epistle Passage – If!

It is time for the beloved readers here to start the move to the site where these posts will have their new home. To read this post please go to the blog site Pondering From the Pacific   The specific post is If!

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Thanksgiving Scriptural Mix – All four scripture types in one day

Today’s verses is what my New Testament seminary professor would call a “rich feast” of scripture. Rather than picking out just one scripture passage from the set of four, I have chosen to use all four, moving from a general theme of thanksgiving to a specific focus of what is, well, the focus of the day.

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, for kings and all who are in high positions, so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity. This is right and is acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God; there is also one mediator between God and humankind, Christ Jesus, himself human, who gave himself a ransom for all

this was attested at the right time. For this I was appointed a herald and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.” (I Timothy 2:1-7)

In any given year, whether it be a major election year or an off-year when smaller elections are held, critique and commentary is made. Such-and-such party believes and promotes this while another party zealously supports that; this politician would do one thing and another politician would do that thing. Now, you all know I have no patience or interest in politicians. But what I do appreciate that each of them, in their own way, tries to promote order and a smoothly running country. The Lord knows that I do not strongly feel that anyone of them is suggesting ways and means that I can unabashedly approve of. But I appreciate and am thankful they all, beneath it all, want a smoothly running country, and quiet and peaceable lives for the citizenry. And I can give thanks for that this day.

When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream.
Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy;
then it was said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them.”
The Lord has done great things for us, and we rejoiced.

Restore our fortunes, O Lord, like the watercourses in the Negeb.
May those who sow in tears reap with shouts of joy.
Those who go out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, carrying their sheaves.” (Psalm 126)

I tend to rely on the Lord, and trust that the Lord will provide for me. Yes, there have been lean years, years that I was not sure we would make “ends meet”; and times when the ends did not meet and we had to live in that gap. But the Lord brought us through all that, and here we are where and when the ends not only meet, but sometimes overlap! My tears have turned to shouts of joy, and I “carry home” the sheaves that provide for our family. It is good to recognize and celebrate this at Thanksgiving.

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:25-33)

I will tell you plainly, beloved reader, this year my health has taken a further decline. Food does not hold the same appeal to me as it used to. This is both a sad thing and a good thing. Sad, because . . . well . . . because . . . I remember the times that food has been a comfort and a time of celebration and gathering of family and friends. Food means fellowship and communion with others. And while I enjoy gathering with family and friends, I focus more on just the people around the table than the food that is shared with them. And being the chief cook, my lack of interest in food makes food preparation more of a trial than a joy.

But, I have found new joy in clothing. Being a smaller me means new clothes, color combinations and styles that bring joy to my heart. I feel like a “lily of the field” and truly feel that God has clothed me as such. So that is where my joy lies this year.

Yes, I am going to prepare a full thanksgiving meal; but it will be a gift to my family instead of a time for me to feed my own body. And I am thankful that I can still do that for them.

Do not fear, O soil; be glad and rejoice, for the Lord has done great things!
Do not fear, you animals of the field, for the pastures of the wilderness are green; the tree bears its fruit, the fig tree and vine give their full yield.

O children of Zion, be glad and rejoice in the Lord your God; for he has given the early rain for your vindication, he has poured down for you abundant rain, the early and the later rain, as before.
The threshing floors shall be full of grain, the vats shall overflow with wine and oil.

I will repay you for the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter, my great army, which I sent against you.

You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, and praise the name of the Lord your God, who has dealt wondrously with you. And my people shall never again be put to shame.
You shall know that I am in the midst of Israel, and that I, the Lord, am your God and there is no other.
And my people shall never again be put to shame.” (Joel 2:21-27)

This time of the year – Thanksgiving that leads into Advent and Christmas, and into the New Year – is a time of food and fellowship. That we have both in abundance gives raise to our thanksgiving and praise of and to God. That we have enough food, and family and friends to share it with gives color and meaning to these times. We share with one another, and rejoice that we have much to share and have a share in much. Our Lord God has undertaken for us and has provided for us. Yes, there is want and need. And yes, there may be people who still have want and need. But at this time of the year, folks are more likely to see the need and be moved to fill it. The season itself takes hold and people of all faiths and beliefs come together to give aid to those in need. Love that has its roots in the Christian beliefs Jesus taught seems to come over all people. And that too is worthy of celebration.

May you, beloved reader, feel the care and compassion that finds its beginnings in God’s love for us. May you be the recipient of that love, care and compassion. And may you share that love, care and compassion with others, sharing its abundance to all in need. Selah!

Season After Pentecost – Grieving now for what was then (The Epistle Passage)

Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.
To him who loves us and freed us from our sins by his blood, and made us to be a kingdom, priests serving his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
Look! He is coming with the clouds; every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and on his account all the tribes of the earth will wail.
So it is to be. Amen.
I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” (Revelation 1:4b-8)

I am sitting down to write this the day after the tragedies in Paris. I do not know if anyone in Paris read this blog, or would be reading this post. Maybe people who have friends or relatives in Paris might. I do not know. What I do know is that it would be my heart’s desire to send greetings and thoughts of hope and courage in the face of such hatred that was used to assault the people of Paris.

Grace and peace, most assuredly! The love and comfort of our Lord be yours.

This passage from Revelation is but the open salutation written by the recorder/writer of Revelation – not quite the type of blessing that other books of the bible start with. It is, however, what I have to work with as far as scripture passages go. The book of Revelation is the chronicling of what is happening in heaven in the days when judgment has come upon the earth. What happened in Paris, what happened in my own state of Oregon, and what happens in any place is the result of one person or a group of people – whatever their reason or rationale might be – using violence and causing death to express their opinion or believe. It is the greatest of understatements to say it is wrong. And that it is not the way Jesus would have us relate to one another.

To use the example of Revelation, it is like the beast is being let loose on the earth. Except . . . it isn’t. It is human against human. Humanity turning on itself and destroying itself. And maybe that is a greater “beast” than is described in Revelation.

I am digressing. I guess I don’t really have a point. Maybe it is simply to mourn the event. By the time you read this, beloved reader, events will have moved on, no doubt. It will remind you though, I hope, that some day the Lord will return to earth. And all hatred and violence will end. May we look forward to that day! Selah!

Season After Pentecost – The Reign of Christ: what it is and isn’t (The Gospel Passage)

Then Pilate entered the headquarters again, summoned Jesus, and asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?” Pilate replied, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me. What have you done?” (John 18:33-35)

I am never quite sure how to understand and interpret Jesus being brought before the civil officials. Some passage in the gospels say that Jesus did not defend himself when questioned. Others, like this one, seem to have the type of interactions that Jesus had with the Pharisees, Sadducees and other such people.

This Sunday, being the last Sunday in the liturgical year (where has the year gone!) is Feast of Christ Sunday. It is fitting then to focus on Jesus’ reign, and the latter verses of this passage do just that.

Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.” Pilate asked him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.” (Verses 36-37)

John is a gospel that asserts Jesus in all his Divinity and power. It is not surprising then that the Jesus Christ in the passage is assertive with Pilate, where in other gospels Jesus has a humbler tone. In this, Jesus is an enigma. Our Lord Jesus can and is so many different things to different people and different beliefs. Are they all the truth?

I am not suggesting that our Lord Jesus should be confined to just one type of Messiah. But how are we to know if our view of Jesus is “the truth”? When scripture is read and interpreted, how do we know that our reading and interpretation is the the truth? Mennonites believe that the Holy Spirit helps us understand and interpret scripture. And I have found that to be very true. But even then the question hangs . . . how do we know? I wish I could give you, beloved reader, a definitive answer. I cannot. However, I strongly feel if we keep reading, seeking, and pursuing what is the most true we will not go astray.

There is one more reading for this week, and then verses that are specifically for Thanksgiving. Then next Sunday we start in on a new lectionary year – Year C. It is a year where we seek and do penance, confessing our sins and receiving forgiveness. The story of the prodigal son is referred to frequently. I will have more to say tomorrow.

May you, beloved reader, continue to seek our Lord Jesus Christ – seeking the truth that was and is revealed in His Reign. Selah!

Season After Pentecost – What was granted to David, is also for us (The Psalms Passage)

O Lord, remember in David’s favor all the hardships he endured; how he swore to the Lord and vowed to the Mighty One of Jacob, “I will not enter my house or get into my bed; I will not give sleep to my eyes or slumber to my eyelids, until I find a place for the Lord, a dwelling place for the Mighty One of Jacob.”
We heard of it in Ephrathah; we found it in the fields of Jaar. “Let us go to his dwelling place; let us worship at his footstool.” (Psalms 132:1-7)

In the time of King David, God resided in specific places and it was there that the followers of God journeyed to worship God. This is one of the changes that comes in the New Testament, and with Jesus coming to earth. God, we now believe, can be found anywhere and everywhere.

You can imagine (and it is appropriate with Advent “just around the corner”) how surprising it was for Jesus (God come to earth) to be born in a stable when King David spared no effort and expense to find a resting place for the symbols of God; and that King Solomon built a house of worship for God.

Rise up, O Lord, and go to your resting place, you and the ark of your might. Let your priests be clothed with righteousness, and let your faithful shout for joy.” (Verse 9)

Compare this then with Jesus who traveled with his disciples, and visited and ministered to people who were considered to be very unrighteous.

“For your servant David’s sake do not turn away the face of your anointed one. The Lord swore to David a sure oath from which he will not turn back:
“One of the sons of your body I will set on your throne. If your sons keep my covenant and my decrees that I shall teach them, their sons also, forevermore, shall sit on your throne.” (Verses 10-12)

We know that while David’s son Solomon followed God, the grandsons and great grandsons of David did not. And the throne was taken from them. BUT, this is where another interesting thing occurs; while Jesus as the son of God was Divine, as an earthly man he was in the line of David. And therefore kin to David. While David’s offspring might have broken the covenant that resulted in kingship, God was faithful on the God-self’s side, and provided a king above all other kings in the line of David.

For the Lord has chosen Zion; he has desired it for his habitation: “This is my resting place forever;
here I will reside, for I have desired it. I will abundantly bless its provisions; I will satisfy its poor with bread. Its priests I will clothe with salvation, and its faithful will shout for joy. There I will cause a horn to sprout up for David; I have prepared a lamp for my anointed one. His enemies I will clothe with disgrace, but on him, his crown will gleam.” ( Verses 13 -18)

These verses are not part of the established set of RCL passages, but are offered as possible verses for meditation and worship. Again, consider the radical theological idea that God and Christ desires to reside in our hearts. When God could have chosen splendor and glory for the Lord’s habitation, instead the Divine chooses our hearts. Granted, they must be contrite, humble and obedient hearts. But we are given the same chance to have the blessings that were given to David; not kingship, no. But communion and relationship with God.

As we prepare to move from ordinary time to the time of Advent, let us keep in mind that gift and blessing that God’s desire for intimacy with us is. Selah!

Season After Pentecost – The Last Words of King David (The Old Testament Passage)

Again, it took the The Message translation to help me understand what these last words by King David were meant to convey. I have them cited as the NRSV but I hope with my explanations you can see and understand the intent. If not, feel free to look up The Message translation for yourself. My passage by passage explanation is just as much for my own benefit and thought process as yours.

Now these are the last words of David:
The oracle of David, son of Jesse, the oracle of the man whom God exalted, the anointed of the God of Jacob, the favorite of the Strong One of Israel:” (II Samuel 23:1)

You might think, as I first did, that this is King David’s boast about himself; and it is, in a sense. But it is also his rationale for making such a final statement – that he is a man who was called by God and answered that call. Judge him as you may, but in all things he says, he was called and strove to follow God. He builds on this when he says,

The spirit of the Lord speaks through me, his word is upon my tongue.
The God of Israel has spoken, the Rock of Israel has said to me:
One who rules over people justly, ruling in the fear of God, is like the light of morning, like the sun rising on a cloudless morning, gleaming from the rain on the grassy land.” (Verses 2-4)

Here is where I resist thinking, and reminding the writer of II Samuel, of all the missteps that King David made. But really, when you compare David to modern politicians, he did not do so badly. Or, no worse than other rulers. And under David’s rule, the people always knew that David tried to be true to God’s message and intent. Who of us has not taken missteps with trying to follow God?

Is not my house like this with God?
For he has made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and secure.
Will he not cause to prosper all my help and my desire? (Verse 5)

Okay, so David was the king. And it was good to be the king, receiving and enjoying all the kingly things. God promised that if David would be the type of king that God wanted , David would received all that he desired. So, God keeps the Divine’s promises. We can rest in and be assured of that. The Message adds an additional sense that David also wanted above all things salvation.

Interesting, some translation allow some doubt to creep in that perhaps David’s rule and household were not always the way God wanted them to be. That gives an interesting interpretation to the verses that follow.

“But the godless are all like thorns that are thrown away; for they cannot be picked up with the hand;
to touch them one uses an iron bar or the shaft of a spear. And they are entirely consumed in fire on the spot.” (Verses 6-7)

However one may look upon David’s rule and his household, it is true what David says, that the godless are difficult to be with and handle. And if not literally, will in the fullness of time figuratively by consumed by fire.

The kings and rulers that followed King David were a mixed collection; some took the Godly path that David sought to follow. Others took the worst of David’s examples and built on and embellished that. We make choices every day, beloved reader, of what we will and will not do, whether we will or will not follow God. May our choices bring us ever closer to God. Selah!

Season After Pentecost – When it looks like the end, it is not! (The Gospel Passage)

[I had intended to use the NRSV (New Revised Standard Version) but The Message paraphrase caught my attention first.]

As he walked away from the Temple, one of his disciples said, “Teacher, look at that stonework! Those buildings!” Jesus said, “You’re impressed by this grandiose architecture? There’s not a stone in the whole works that is not going to end up in a heap of rubble.” (Mark 13:1-2)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Humanity is very good at building.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And very good at tearing down.

Now, these verses are not meant to be commentaries on the rise and falls of buildings and other types of humanity-made items. The actual focus of Jesus’ teachings is on end times. That a great many things will happen before the end of all days.

Later, as he was sitting on Mount Olives in full view of the Temple, Peter, James, John, and Andrew got him off by himself and asked, “Tell us, when is this going to happen? What sign will we get that things are coming to a head?”

Jesus began, “Watch out for doomsday deceivers. Many leaders are going to show up with forged identities claiming, ‘I’m the One.’ They will deceive a lot of people. When you hear of wars and rumored wars, keep your head and don’t panic. This is routine history, and no sign of the end. Nation will fight nation and ruler fight ruler, over and over. Earthquakes will occur in various places. There will be famines. But these things are nothing compared to what’s coming. (Verses 3-8)

And though many will say, since this has happened, the end is coming. Or, that since the world is so bad off, the end must be near. And furthermore, individuals or groups may arise that claim knowledge of what is to come, or have the knowledge and skill to save us (an important thing to remember in any election year).

Again, humanity is very good at building up, and very good at tearing down. Very good at brokering peace, and very good at starting wars. But all of these things do not mean it is the final count down to the end. Many believed that the year 2000 meant things were coming to an end; but here we are some 15 years later and the world continues to turn.

Jesus gave his disciples no firm clue or idea of how long it would be. Surely since these verses have been recorded we have had war after war, famine after famine, earthquake after earthquake; and more devastation and heartache than the human heart can handle. And yet, each day dawns, on after another.

The good thing is that the Good News and the Divine’s care of us has not ended either; that is, God is still God, and love still trumps over hatred. Even though more is to come, all is not lost. We build, and then we rebuild – in hopes that better days will come.

May you, beloved reader, hold firm to the things that last, and trust in our Lord God. Selah!