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!

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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 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 Epistle Passage – Going another round with Paul

The late afternoon/early evening that I sat down to write this, it got up to 97 degrees with hotter weather for tomorrow. So what better time to sit down and wrestle more with a passage from Romans!

“Moses writes concerning the righteousness that comes from the law, that “the person who does these things will live by them.” (Romans 10:5)

As I prepared to write on this passage, I had to wonder which law (from which righteousness comes from) Paul was referring to? The law that convicts and does nothing to free us. Or the law that liberates us and makes sin no more? If one did, as I did, and consulted a trusted commentary/commentator, one would learn that Paul’s reference to Moses did not mean the Judaic law, but “law” as guidelines and precepts that the Lord God through Jesus Christ established.

“But the righteousness that comes from faith says, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?'” (that is, to bring Christ down) “or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?'” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead).” (Verses 6 – 7)

The commentator I consulted (thank you again Albert Barnes) said that righteousness from faith does not demand that one goes far distances or undertake arduous travel. No, there is a way much closer at hand.

“But what does it say? “The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim) because if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Verses 8 – 9)

Now, this is not exactly what the Israelites understood as what Moses was saying at the foot of Mt. Sinai. Nor does Paul say that is what Moses was saying. The “takeaway” concept is that believe in God is what is required. This is something that has come up again and again in my readings, that we cannot earn salvation and righteousness through what we do or how we act. It is a blessing and gift from the Lord God and Jesus the Messiah. Our correct living is (or should be) a response to that gift and blessing. But so often the response and the acting get intertwined and we believe that our good actions are what gains us salvation.

“For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved.
The scripture says, “No one who believes in him will be put to shame.” (Verses 10 – 11)

To make clear, confession is worthless unless you believe in the Divine that you confess to, and are sincere in both confession and belief. It is not enough to beat one’s chest and pray/bray aloud one’s faults. Belief is necessary and a contrite heart is mandatory. But other than that, not qualifications are necessary.

“For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him. For, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Verses 12 – 13)

Paul, however, takes it one step further. Because, he is . . . . . you know, Paul.

“But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him? And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” (Verses 14 – 15)

Paul is giving leniency for those who have NOT heard the good news of Jesus Christ. If I can conjecture, it might be an exhortation to share and proclaim one’s faith. Reading further on outside of this passage Paul has not said so explicitly. He does however say the the proclamation concerning Jesus Christ was in Old Testament scripture (as we name it). And if the Jews did not believe in God and Jesus Christ because of what had been set down before them – that was their fault and their eternal loss.

If they may seem rather shaky reasoning, beloved reader, set it aside. And consider, there are very few parts of the world that are not acquainted, at least in passing, with the message of Jesus Christ. And for those places, the same exemption stands for them as Paul explains it. But for those who have heard and have NOT believed, it will not go well with them. Paul is being stern. And I can’t fault him for that. For Paul, this is literally live and death stuff. Take it, and make of it what you will.

There are other approaches to evangelism and salvation. Other perspectives and expectations. And in the heat of the day I just cannot be as exacting as Paul is.

Look to your own inner spirit and soul. Discover and discern what you believe and what you believe in. May the Holy Spirit guide your thoughts and meditations, and bring you through the “heat” of your life. Selah!

Season after Pentecost (Proper 14 [19]): The Old Testament Passage – Moves

When I sat down to write this, I had just gotten done posting the unofficial announcement (that may be turning more official as time goes by) that I plan on moving “operations” over to my other blog, “Pondering From the Pacific”. Of course, beloved reader, you are reading this a week and a day after the fact (yes, writers can “use” time machines) so you may have already absorbed the news. This posting will also be appearing on my other blog. But context and background aside, I was thinking which of the Revised Common Lectionary passages for this week I should start with. And it just seems right to start with a story of moving to a new place.


“Jacob settled in the land where his father had lived as an alien, the land of Canaan.
This is the story of the family of Jacob. Joseph, being seventeen years old, was shepherding the flock with his brothers; he was a helper to the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah, his father’s wives; and Joseph brought a bad report of them to their father.” (Genesis 37:1 – 2)

Yes, we have come to the story of Joseph; the next stage of the Lord God establishing a called people. Now you would think with twelve brothers, it would be enough to start a small nation. But the Lord God had something bigger planned. And a very long term plan. And, a plan that would be challenging for everyone involved. It would turn out to be a very “bitter” plan. Regret and drama. But that is so often the case with human free will.

“Now Israel loved Joseph more than any other of his children, because he was the son of his old age; and he had made him a long robe with sleeves. But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him, and could not speak peaceably to him.” (Verses 3 – 4)

Israel, if you did not know, was Jacob all grown up and blessed by God. Seems though that dysfunctional family relationships are part of their family heritage.

“Now his brothers went to pasture their father’s flock near Shechem. And Israel said to Joseph, “Are not your brothers pasturing the flock at Shechem? Come, I will send you to them.” He answered, “Here I am.” So he said to him, “Go now, see if it is well with your brothers and with the flock; and bring word back to me.”So he sent him from the valley of Hebron. He came to Shechem, and a man found him wandering in the fields; the man asked him, “What are you seeking?” “I am seeking my brothers,” he said; “tell me, please, where they are pasturing the flock.” The man said, “They have gone away, for I heard them say, ‘Let us go to Dothan.'” So Joseph went after his brothers, and found them at Dothan. They saw him from a distance, and before he came near to them, they conspired to kill him. They said to one another, “Here comes this dreamer.” (Verses 12 – 19)

Yes, we skipped over that part, where Joseph had dreams where he was mightier and more powerful than his brothers, and even his parents. Having a favored “kid brother” is hard enough, but one that walks around with an attitude in a fancy cloak was just too much!

“Come now, let us kill him and throw him into one of the pits; then we shall say that a wild animal has devoured him, and we shall see what will become of his dreams.” But when Reuben heard it, he delivered him out of their hands, saying, “Let us not take his life.” (Verses 20 – 21)

I guess big brothers do look out for their younger brothers . . . . up to a point.

“Reuben said to them, “Shed no blood; throw him into this pit here in the wilderness, but lay no hand on him” –that he might rescue him out of their hand and restore him to his father. So when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe, the long robe with sleeves that he wore; and they took him and threw him into a pit. The pit was empty; there was no water in it. Then they sat down to eat; and looking up they saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead, with their camels carrying gum, balm, and resin, on their way to carry it down to Egypt. Then Judah said to his brothers, “What profit is it if we kill our brother and conceal his blood? Come, let us sell him to the Ishmaelites, and not lay our hands on him, for he is our brother, our own flesh.” And his brothers agreed. When some Midianite traders passed by, they drew Joseph up, lifting him out of the pit, and sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty pieces of silver. And they took Joseph to Egypt.” ( Verses 22 – 28)

I’m not sure if selling your brother to some traveling strangers is much better than killing him. It seems to me they wanted to be rid of him, and did not care about his fate. They still ended up making their father believe Joseph was dead, and as far as they knew he might have ended up dying anyway. But dreams and dreamers do not die easily, and oft times survive after taking some interesting paths to fruition. And all of the offspring of those blessed by God have a part and purpose. What we think are plans that have a definite end and assured resolution may not turn out the way we thought at all. That is one of the reasons the journey I am on now, moving “operations” to a different site, may prove to be a very interesting one; NOT I hope, as “interesting” as Joseph’s!

May you, beloved reader, have journeys and plans that are blessed by the Lord God! Selah!