Monthly Archives: June 2013

A Proverbial Word / Greed Will Ambush You

Proverbs 1: 10 My child, if sinners entice you,
do not consent.
11 If they say, ‘Come with us, let us lie in wait for blood;
let us wantonly ambush the innocent;
12 like Sheol let us swallow them alive
and whole, like those who go down to the Pit.
13 We shall find all kinds of costly things;
we shall fill our houses with booty.
14 Throw in your lot among us;
we will all have one purse’—
15 my child, do not walk in their way,
keep your foot from their paths;
16 for their feet run to evil,
and they hurry to shed blood.
17 For in vain is the net baited
while the bird is looking on;
18 yet they lie in wait—to kill themselves!
and set an ambush—for their own lives!
19 Such is the end of all who are greedy for gain;
it takes away the life of its possessors.

There are two points I am going to look at in this proverb. First, as I began to read it took me back to all the lessons on avoiding peer pressure. Second, that the more we get, monetarily or materially, the less we become ourselves.

“My child, if sinners entice you, do not consent.” This is classic good advice. If you wouldn’t do it with me standing there watching, then you know you shouldn’t do it. “If everybody else was jumping off a bridge, would you?” There is a phenomenal pull in the human psyche to go along with people, to fit in. This is all well and good if you only come into contact with people who are doing good things and believe in doing what is right. The problem is, there always seem to be more people who aren’t doing that…and they seem to be having a whole lot of fun! Not only that, but this group seems to want nothing more than to get a pile of other people to do the same. Maybe it is to justify their own actions, or to drown out the sound of their own conscience.

“19 Such is the end of all who are greedy for gain;
it takes away the life of its possessors.” At first glance one might think that this is saying all greedy people will die. That doesn’t make sense though, as all people die. It could refer to not gaining eternal life, but this is the Old Testament so that doesn’t really apply. I also don’t think it means that possessions are inherently bad things. It isn’t the possession but the greed for ever more possessions which is the problem. The more we focus on getting more, and newer, and better things, the less like ourselves we become. I certainly know that the more time I spend surfing the net looking for the next cool thing to buy, the less time I choose to use for actual relaxation, for conversations with family and friends, for time in prayer and Bible reflection.

There is a tug-of-war going on inside us all. This proverb puts some extra weight on the side of righteousness.

A Proverbial Word / Parental Wisdom


thanks to Seer Snively Jackal of All Trades on flickr

thanks to Seer Snively, Jackal of All Trades on flickr

Proverbial parenting?

Straight out of the Ten Commandments, after putting the Lord your God first, having no idols, and remembering the Sabbath, we read, “Honour thy father and thy mother.”(Ex 20:12)

Proverbs 8 Hear, my child, your father’s instruction,
   and do not reject your mother’s teaching; 
9 for they are a fair garland for your head,
   and pendants for your neck.

At first glance, of course, one may take the father’s teaching to be from God, but as it is paired with mother’s teaching it becomes clear that this refers to human parents. Imagine that! Listen to the teaching of your parents without rejecting it, wear it on your head and carry it on yourself like a pendant.

Please note, it doesn’t say anything about carrying a chain around your neck or shackles on your feet!  Wisdom, and learning are not meant to weigh us down but to lift us up. To ornament or brighten us.

A Proverbial Word / Fear Of The Lord


Fear the Lord.  What? We are supposed to be afraid of God?  What happened to the whole God of love thing?

Proverbs 1:7  The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction. (NRSV)

On the surface of this statement it means that nobody who doesn’t at the very least believe in God can be wise.  They would be fools who aren’t even interested in learning.  This has always been a difficult phrase for me.

In Eugene H. Peterson’s The Message//Remix it is paraphrased as; Proverbs 1:7 Start with God – the first step in learning is bowing down to God; only fools thumb their noses at such wisdom and learning

One of the ways of interpreting the meaning of things like, “fear of the Lord” in the Old Testament is by looking at what the author uses as comparison.   On one hand we have a person who fears the Lord while on the other we have fools who don’t even desire to learn or become wise.  Fear of the lord or love of evil seem to be one of the opposites they are talking about. Fear of the Lord is humility and its opposite is pride and arrogance.

The proverbial statement is about fear of the Lord, not about cowering in the corner waiting for a lightning strike, but being in awe enough of the Lord to try to learn everything we can about him and from him.  

A Proverbial Word/ Prologue

One of the things frequently heard in my house growing up was, “the proverbial”, as in “the proverbial silver lining!”  The other day I got thinking about how many of the sayings we use in society are, in fact, from the Book of Proverbs and not just local lore. 

It is the readings which are included in Sunday worship throughout the year that we hear interpreted and spend time considering.  In a quick scan of the lectionary readings for years A,B and C I found only five Sundays on which one of the optional reading was from Proverbs. There are none in year A, three in year B, and two in year C.

 So I have decided to go through Proverbs and reflect on some of the items in light of our world situation in 2013.

To begin we have the opening comments;

1The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel:
For learning about wisdom and instruction,
   for understanding words of insight, 
for gaining instruction in wise dealing,
   righteousness, justice, and equity; 
to teach shrewdness to the simple,
   knowledge and prudence to the young— 
let the wise also hear and gain in learning,
   and the discerning acquire skill, 
to understand a proverb and a figure,
   the words of the wise and their riddles. 

A little unpacking. From reading the  introductory remarks from the book one would be hard pressed to make any case for this not being important content.  There is nothing to look down on in; wisdom, understanding, insight, justice, equity, shrewdness, knowledge and prudence.  And yet we rarely hear of people spending  lot of time reading and reflecting upon Proverbs.

While the intent is positive, I think most of us view it, at best, as a well meaning lecture from our elders, and at worst, the cynical views of a few people who had everything.  At the risk of  being proverbial, there is a sense that the people who were the source of these sayings should get off their high horses!

Let’s open our minds for the next while and see what Proverbs has to share with us…

As usual I have taken Bible quotes from  New Revised Standard Version (Anglicized Edition)

Fathers Full Time

FD and the dog

Today is Father’s Day and as all the posts on Face Book and all the adds are about fathers, naturally, I got thinking about my father. When I discovered that the card I thought I had safely tucked away for the day was possibly the one I used last year, I wondered what I would do.  I thought about asking him to do something with me which would bring back great memories, like going to Canadian Tire together.  But, which thing would I choose.  And I began trying to think of when he was most my father;

  • Saturday morning trips to Canadian Tire with me riding on his shoulders or holding his hand through the parking lot

  • picking me up from school when I broke my foot

  • any time he took me to the hospital and had to ask me my age etc.

  • swimming (me) and dead man’s float (him)

  • when he worked on the house and I ran to get tools etc. to help out

  • when he drove us around and pointed out all the sights and challenged us to watch for animals

  • hiking through the woods and pretending that I didn’t have a swarm of deer flies on my back so I wouldn’t completely melt down

  • when he sat me down (on top of the fridge) for an eye-to-eye chat

  • when he tripped me on the way down the aisle for my first wedding, was it prescience? 

  • when he hugged me good bye as I was moving to the USA

  • when he attended every performance I did which was within a day’s drive

  • when we went over what had gone well, and what might need improving

  • when he corrected my English, and then didn’t freak out when I did it to him

  • when he quietly helped me move back into their house after marriage one ended

  • when he played organ for our choir or sang in the choir with me

  • when he took pictures of me…”no turn around and look at the tree…”

  • when we went out for my first driving lesson and he said, “let’s cross the highway bridge”

Obviously I could go on and on.  I recently had a chance to read some of his memories from his youth which I considered to be a great privilege.  It made me think of that little boy in a picture with a dog and the biggest smile on his face.  That is my dad.  

So when was he most my father?  Anytime I think about him!

Opening The Eye of The Needle/ The Gift of The Gospel


     Believe it or not…! Would you believe that … ? Most of the time that we are faced with that sort of statement or question it is either preceded or followed by some extraordinary tale. Can you believe that a deer climbed through a window and was running around in the legislature chambers?  Can you believe that she lost 80 pounds in just a month on this new diet? I can’t believe they are charging so much for a loaf of bread!

        Belief is a very fundamental thing and yet in the same way as we have taken to talking about “loving cheese” we have to some extent reduced the power of the word believe.  It isn’t that we are misusing the word believe, but it is rarely used for the foundational issues.  However, if I were to ask you what your beliefs were, I don’t think you would respond with your take on the latest happenings at work, the latest gossip, or the latest scientific discovery.  Ultimately our beliefs are the foundation of our identity, the guiding principles behind all our life decisions and actions.


        C.S. Lewis, well known author of the Narnia series as well as many excellent books on theological issues, grew up attending the Church of England with his parents.  From his earliest days he believed in God.  At some point in his teens this belief went away and he became an atheist.  Not just a quiet atheist, he was what I ironically term a devout atheist.  Not sufficient to just not believe himself, he argued all the really good reasons why there was no God with anyone who would listen. 

        Despite this belief, or lack there-of, he continued to feel that there was something else, occasionally glimpsed out of the corner of his eye or sensed behind his back.  After years of atheism, a stage of dabbling with the occult, he was surprised to find that what he had been glimpsing and sensing was indeed God.  During the period of time when he did not believe, he made no pretense of belief.  He was wholly and enthusiastically an atheist.  When he believed he was wholly and enthusiastically Christian and shared that belief in his writing.  C.S. Lewis, for whatever else one may say about him, was not a fence sitter!


        Elijah was the only prophet of God who had survived king Ahab’s killing of prophets of God and all those who refused to worship Baal.  In the community of Israel at that time some people were either wholeheartedly worshiping Baal, the storm god of Syria, or somewhat secretly worshiping God.  There were many, however, who sat on the fence. They worshiped God but had Baal figures and Asherah poles, symbols of the Canaanite mother goddess, as well.  There was even a belief among some of the descendants of mixed marriages with the Canaanites that God was the replacement for the father god El, the husband of Ashera and so it followed that Asherah must be God’s wife.

        We read in I Kings 18:20-39 of a standoff at Mount Carmel.  On one side there were, according to other writings about the event, 400 prophets of Asher and 450 prophets of Baal.  On the other side there was Elijah, the sole prophet of God.  It was time for people to get off the fences and stand firmly on one side or the other.  Either they would believe in “their god”, or they would believe in “the Lord.” Elijah proposed a sort of duel.  Both sides would prepare a sacrifice but not set fire to it.  The Baal prophets would then pray to him to light the fire and Elijah would pray the same to God.  The one who lit the fire, he said, “is God.”

Let’s look at the odds shall we?  They had, altogether, 850 prophets, an altar already standing, first choice of bull, and a head start.  Elijah gave them all day. They began in the morning and by noon Baal had not started a fire under the offering.  Elijah mocked them but did not set about to make his offering right away.  By the time they were nearing the evening sacrifice and meal they had pulled out all the stops, to the extent of cutting themselves with swords and lances.

Elijah was alone, he went second in choosing his materials, had to build an altar since the original lay in ruins, had a definite time limit pressing, and then on top of that he dug a trench around the altar and had water poured over the wood and bull until it filled up the trench.

Have you tried starting a fire with wet wood?  A betting person surely would put the odds seriously in favour of Baal.  When it came time for oblation Elijah called people to come closer to his altar.  He prayed to God in the names of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel not for justifying himself or saving his life but so that all would know that God is Lord!  After this fairly simple prayer, “the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt-offering, the wood, the stones, and the dust, and even licked up the water that was in the trench.”  The people saw, believed, and worshiped, repeating the words, “The Lord indeed is God; the Lord indeed is God.”


        Recently on the Newnham Campus of Seneca College in Toronto the General Assembly; ministers, elders, and guests from Presbyterian churches across Canada, gathered to worship.  There had great music, they gathered, confessed their sins, were nurtured by the Word, listen to a reflection on the Word, and respond with communion and prayers. After the service they  settled down to the order of the day which was to address issues of doctrine, logistics and mission which will set the course of the national church for the next year.  This is the court of the church that must meet and agree upon any statements of the church, like The Living Faith.

        Paul wrote a letter to the Christians living in Galatia, some of them would have been Jews and many gentiles.  He and his companions had presented the Gospel to them.  They had believed, been baptized, and were living according to the Gospel message.  There were no general assemblies; there was no formal church structure or any written documents to guide their growth as the church.  By the time Paul was writing this letter people had started to try to formalize things and a group of Christians began to add their own interpretations and provisos to the Gospel proclamation. 

        Paul was horrified by the notion that some of the Jewish Christians were teaching that in order to be Christian people needed to submit to “the law” and a part of that included a requirement that men be circumcised.  This may not seem like such a big deal, but to Paul it was the same as throwing out the Gospel and creating a gospel of human creation.  Does this sound familiar?  It is much like the situation with Elijah and the Baal prophets.  Elijah knew there were no other gods, that, as it says in Psalms, “all the gods of the peoples are idols, but the Lord made the heavens.”  Paul says the Gospel is in the same way that the Lord is God! The Gospel wasn’t created by man but given to man by God.  He refers to the other teachings as gospel only to have a way of addressing the issue. “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel – not that there is another gospel.”

        To Paul the Gospel was not something taught by Jesus during his lifetime, but given to us by Jesus.  It was nothing less than the full power of God, there was no need for any human action or intervention for God to give this gift.  It represents freedom, an opening up of salvation to all, it opens the eye of the needle so that we may all pass through. The law based gospel these people in Galatia were presenting denied the total power of God and effectively closed the eye of the needle right back up.

        What is the message to us today?  Those of us here this morning are all at some stage of believing the Gospel.  Some may just be hearing it for the first time, some hearing it anew, some struggling to hold on to their belief, and others feeling full of and freed by it.  The Gospel is the good news of God’s saving act in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  For it to make sense to all different people it needs to be translated and interpreted to them in various ways.  While, unlike the Galatians, we have the written New Testament full of the stories of Jesus and of the birth and growth of the early church, we truly receive the Gospel only from God. 

        The claims of the Gospel are wild and defy logic and human nature.  In some ways we trap it, and tame it with our written word changing it into ideology.  Let us, rather, choose to believe the Gospel.  Let us truly accept it and stand in awe of its wildness!