Second Sunday After Christmas Day: Holy Name of Jesus Day

This is a day in the liturgical year that celebrates the naming of Jesus. Usually celebrated on Jan 1, being eight days after Jesus birth when he would have been dedicated and circumcised. The Revised Common Lectionary does not always have verses used on the days specified by biblical chronology. And since I do not post on Friday, which is January first this year, I decided to use the following scripture passages this day.

Psalm 8 is wonderfully suited to this day. Stop and think a moment on the coincidence of the writer of Psalms writing this praise to God far in advance of any humanly known plan for Jesus’ birth. But God, in the way that God is all-knowing knew. From the time that it was written, down through the years, it has been a celebration of the Almighty God, and a thanksgiving that humanity has been so adored by God as to promote the gift of God’s son to us.

O Lord, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth!

You have set your glory above the heavens.
Out of the mouths of babes and infants you have founded a bulwark because of your foes,
to silence the enemy and the avenger.

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established; what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them? Yet you have made them a little lower than God, and crowned them with glory and honor.
You have given them dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under their feet, all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas.

O Lord, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” (Psalm 8)

God from the very beginning of calling out the Lord’s people had desired to set them apart as a testimony to the Lord’s involvement in humanity. In some respects the birth of Jesus was the beginning of a new relationship between God and humanity. But in other respects it was a culmination of what God had always hoped would be the relationship between the God-self and humanity.

The Book of Numbers is a culling together of God’s people, forming them by laws and rules, teaching them how to get along. It is often misunderstood and used out of context. Some of its laws and rules do not (or should not) apply now. It’s main attempt, I think, is to give structure to God’s people’s lives. They were to be God’s people – often getting wrong the way the should live, and substituting strict admonitions for caring compassion. In that respect, not much has changed. But God’s intentions are clear.

The Lord spoke to Moses, saying: Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, Thus you shall bless the Israelites: You shall say to them, . . . . So they shall put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.” (Number 6:22-23, 27)

The blessing that was given to God’s people at that time is a blessing that has been passed down generation to generation. I have used it several times, and each occasion is marked especially in my mind. I give it to you, beloved reader, as a reminder that who ever you are, you are favored and loved by God, known and named as a child of God . Selah!

The Lord bless you and keep you;
the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you;
the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.”

(Numbers 6:24-26)

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DO THAT WHICH IS PLEASING . . . In other words, respond to God!

“Now may the God of peace, who brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, make you complete in everything good, so that you may do his will, working among us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.” (Hebrews 13:20-21b from Hebrews 13:1-21 [Emphasis mine])

Any man or woman who can bless as Paul can bless can be forgiven much by me. And Paul does eventually get around to tell the readers of Hebrews what they must do in response to the gift and person-hood of Christ. That he leaves it to practically the end of the letter frustrates me, but then Paul has frustrated me before, and I am sure will again. And if I can expand on Paul, being in right relationship with God and others, insuring and executing compassionate justice, and working towards shalom should certainly be pleasing to God and Jesus Christ’s sight.

And having appropriated Paul’s theology, I would like to repay him by talking a little about his style of blessing. It is one that I have tried to emulate. There is a driving force in the combination of words and sentiments that comes through the translation from the original language to our modern day English – of course part of that can be attributed to the skill of the translators. Paul’s style reminds me somewhat of preachers and ministers who have run on prayers that just seem to go on and on because of well placed and often used conjunctive speech. It can get wearing and tiring because they do not seem to have a purpose or an end point. But Paul has a specific destination in his prayers, and a well laid out route. The reader is compelled to read further and further until Paul climaxes in his irrefutable basis for his theology of the prayer. Makes you just want to stand up at attention and raise praise to God! And please God who is the invisible and underlying author of all Paul’s prayers. So I reiterate, I can forgive a lot.

You may gentle reader be so moved by the compassion and sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ that you strive each day to be at peace with all of humanity so that the Almighty God might be pleased with you. Selah! And shalom for your day!

BLESSING – Pure Shalom . . . in time

“The Lord bless you from Zion. May you see the prosperity of Jerusalem all the days of your life. May you see your children’s children. Peace be upon Israel!” (Psalm 128:5-6 from Psalm 128:1-6 )

As I was posting one of my blogs to the website, I noticed that I (meaning how many I personally  have written and posted) was nearing 2000 posts. And this one makes it 2001. And I thought, “this calls for a little notice, some pomp and circumstance.” But alas, post 2000 was already written, and the theme was not appropriate to “pomp and circumstance.” And I could not make myself change one letter of it in order to recognize the coming and going of the 2000th posting.

But that is alright. It is the passing of the 2000th mark that pleases me more than getting that many done. And even at this writing, I still yet to have posted 2000; since I write so in advance, I never “catch up” with myself. That is, I am never writing “currently.”

That is often the way it is with blessing and shalom. It is wished and bestowed in the present, but more likely than not the blessing and shalom are something we look forward to in the future. That is the grammatical function of “may” – the one blessing hopes that the one being blessed will have that happen for them. And not that it is happening now. Look at the end of verse 5 – “all the days of your life.” A hopeful intention for the future, and not necessarily a reality today. So the the blessing of seeing “your children’s children.” Inherent in that is a wish for a long and healthy life, and the reality that your children are already grown and having children.

The process of turning an enemy into a friend takes time too. Time to assuage fears and prove good will. Time for justice to be made evident and right relationships to take root and grow. We work now for what we hope will come in the future. Just as I write now for what I will post for you in the future.

May you, gentle reader, see the fruit of your good work in your lifetime, and may your work stand as evidence for God’s mission of shalom in the world. Shalom for day and all the days to come! Selah!

If fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom . . . .blessings comes at the end

“He will bless those who fear the Lord, both small and great.” So it is not just the weak that should fear the Lord, but those who have stature and standing as well. Why, you may ask, should we fear the Lord? Is the Lord to be feared? Is our God an angry God of whom we should tremble in fear? Or is fear of the Lord not “fear” but awe and reverence? Fearing not the Lord, but seeing that the Lord’s might and glory is so great that we would hide our eyes for fear that we shall be found unworthy of the love of such a God. We have seen and heard of what our God can do, so why should such a God reach down and have compassion for us? This God is so beyond our human understanding that the state of our ignorance makes us small and insignificant next to this God.

From this you would think that we should be scared of God, but the psalmist says, “May the Lord give you increase, both you and your children.” Our God does not seek our destruction, but rather our success. And God desires the success of the generations that follow. The psalmist adds, “May you be blessed by the Lord, who made heaven and earth.“ The God who created the heavens which are so vast that we only now are coming to understand its depth and breadth . . wishes us well. The blessing of such a mighty God is a mighty blessing indeed. ( Psalm 115:13-15 )

May you seeker find your beginnings of wisdom in coming to know and reverence our God. And may the God who stooped down from the Lord’s mighty throne to live amongst us bless you and all those you hold near and dear. Selah!

Whether at the beginning or the end – may there be blessings in the day

“May there be abundance of grain in the land; may it wave on the tops of the mountains; may its fruit be like Lebanon; and may people blossom in the cities like the grass of the field.” (Psalms 72:16)

I am a sucker for sunsets, so when I saw this picture of a grain field illuminated by the sunset, I just had to use it. I am sure there are those for who have a greater appreciation for a sunrise. And I suppose it is just as likely that it could be a sunrise.

But at sunset, one knows the day is done. Labor and toil are set aside, knowing that one had done a good’s days work. The fruits of one’s labors visible before you. One is assured that one’s needs have been met. The world is at peace, at least for a time.

Sunrise, on the other hand, is at the beginning of the day, and a hard day’s labor it may be. What the day will bring is unknown, and the worker is tasked with proving his or her worth. There is still the question as to whether one will what she or he needs for this day. And whether or not it will be a day of peace.

It is, however, a personal choice as to which is a better time for meditation and contemplation; the beginning or the end of a day. I prefer the end of the day. Another person might like the beginning.

But whether it is the beginning or end, the bestowing of blessings is always a good thing. Sufficiency of harvest, a safe place to dwell, and good companionship; these are some of the essentials of life. May you seeker be blessed with these things, and may you work to assure this blessing for others. Selah!

This Is The Reason

“For this reason, since the day we heard it [about you], we have not ceased praying for you and asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you may lead lives worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, as you bear fruit in every good work and as you grow in the knowledge of God.” (Colossians 1: 9-10 )

It is tempting seeker just to have you go back and re-read my posting for Sept 10th. I am not sure there is anything else that can be said. And if that were not enough, I am not sure there is much that could be added to Paul’s blessing.

I could post pictures to illustrate the verses. I could cite songs. I could quote other people’s commentary. Or I could just fill up space writing about all the things I could do.

There is one thing I do want to say though. I do not know if the readers of this blog are small or large in number; but each day I write these things I think about the people who might read them, and what they might need in their lives. And while I may not know them individually, under the label of “seeker” I pray for them, and for whatever they might be seeking. Ever since I first heard about started writing for “A Simple Desire” I have prayed for the intent that this blog has. And as I said above, Paul’s blessing in encompassing enough that I feel I could pray it for each reader, and I do.

May God hear the prayers that are lifted up for you seeker, and may the Lord grant them according to the Divine’s wisdom. Selah!