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Tag Archives: cross
Today I went to the daily lectionary page of pcusa.org for some inspiration. Today’s Old Testament reading was Genesis 37:25-36, the scene in which Joseph’s brothers sell him into slavery ‘down the river Nile’ in Egypt. This struck me as an odd story on which to focus during Lent. The Gospel reading, Mark 1:29-45 covered the healing of Simon’s mother-in-law, healing of many people who were brought over to her home that evening, and a leper the next morning when he had gone apart from the group to pray. This continuation of the story of Jesus seemed much more appropriate.
Then I got thinking…
Joseph was very popular with his father and, in the eyes of his brothers, spoiled. They were all older than he was and all had a right to a place higher in the pecking-order of esteem and inheritance than he should have had. They were the ones who deserved the attention.
Imagine now that the role of the older brothers is, in the New Testament, taken by the Scribes and Pharisees of his day. Jesus, despite all that he had done for people in need, made these people nervous, even jealous. What did these older brothers do? They sold Jesus down the river, or up the cross to be more accurate.
When Joseph was sold, it turned out to be to the benefit of all of Israel. It had all been part of God’s plan. Likewise, when Jesus was sent to the cross, through the planning of the Caiaphas and the betrayal by Judas, it was for the benefit of all people.
Last night I had occasion to watch the movie Godspell. The movie came out in 1972 when I was eight, but what I remember are the multiple musical theatre productions of the show which I saw as a teen and young adult. I was, last night just as when I was a teen, held transfixed as the character of Jesus led his little group of misfits through the parables. When the partner songs begin at the end of the show with “Long live God” as they carry him away from the cross, being joined with “Prepare ye the way of the Lord,” from the opening of the show I was taken to that thin place! I felt lifted up, I was closer to heaven!
I realize this sounds rather flakey or esoteric, but somehow the combination of the real stories of Jesus, the foolish antics of the disciples as they act them out and misunderstand their meanings, and the music is very affecting! We are led to praise God and celebrate the resurrection of Jesus, but not just that. At the same time as we shout, “Long live God!” we need to be preparing the way for the coming of Jesus!
This morning at church when the minister was finished with the Trinity Sunday children’s story he said he had one more thing he wanted to share. He told us that one of our little boys in the congregation had let him know, through his mother I believe, that we say The Lord’s Prayer too fast when we repeat it in worship. He said he can’t keep up. As the minister said, “Out of the mouths of babes!”
Not only may we be repeating the Lord’s Prayer too quickly, but I think we try to do most everything too quickly. Several times lately I’ve been at the microwave at work or a checkout waiting for my card to process a charge and noticed how slowly it seemed to be going. Two minutes in the microwave seems like such a long time now, and it is even worse if whatever we are heating isn’t done when the two minutes are up and we have to, gasp, put it back in for thirty more seconds.
I was at a meeting the other day as an observer and saw this same sort of scenario. The goal of the meeting seemed to be to figure out the fastest way of getting the business done. This led, for the most part, to motions being passed without discussion and the delightful result of being able to finish all the business before lunch by tacking on an extra fifteen minutes to the morning session. This done everyone went their separate ways rather than gathering for a shared picnic lunch as had been attended. Everyone seemed so pleased to be finished that the idea of fellowship over a meal was cast aside.
What else are we doing this way? When we listen to our children do we seem to be in a rush for them to finish so that we can do something more important? Do we ask people how they are but then walk away so quickly that they don’t even get to answer? Really, what is the big race for?
The children’s story usually concludes with a prayer with the minister saying short phrases for the children to repeat. Today, however, he led us in The Lord’s Prayer, which had already been done in its usual spot in the service, at a slower pace. It was slow enough that there was time to reflect after each phrase on the meaning or ramifications of what we had just said. What a great message. Let’s relax our speed this coming week and reflect more on the meaning of that which we say and do.
For those of you over forty-something have you ever listened to a rapper? To include the younger set , have you travelled to an area where people all spoke a different language or with an accent that was very difficult for you to understand?
If you were immersed in that sort of situation for days on end, then imagine the joy you would feel just hearing someone speaking so that you could understand. Then, imagine if they were telling you that God had loved you so much that he gave his son’s life to atone for your sins. Then they told you that through Him you would have eternal life.
Imagine the feeling that would give you! Imagine the questions it would raise. Are these guys drunk? In Acts we see Pentecost play out. The wind blows, the tongues of flame descend and then people begin to speak in languages they don’t even know. Peter interprets these things for those who are present. In order to make sense of this he quotes scripture.
“And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour
out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy.”
Wait a minute…did Joel say prophesy? Was Peter saying we should prophesy? I’m all for God pouring out His Spirit on me, but I’m not Isaiah, Jonah, or Ezekiel…how am I supposed to prophesy?
In his book New Proclamation Matthew L. Skinner says, “Peter’s brand of “prophecy” is …the task of identifying our own circumstances as somehow in line with testimony about God from the past and in line with the promises of what God is yet to do.” He goes on to explain that the art of prophecy is in truly believing that the Bible is a message to us in our own time.
We need to be open to a dialogue with the scripture. We need to let the Bible shape and effect all that we see, say and do. We need to stop reading the Bible as if it was just another book of information.
In a course I took on Reformed Spirituality we looked at the practice of spiritual reading. In the introduction to this section of her book Soul Feast, Marjorie J. Thompson asks the reader to consider the different way we would approach reading a letter from a dear friend and a newspaper.
Spiritual reading of the Bible is not going to come from reading to get through a section of text. It is not about how much you read, or how quickly you read. Our intention should be, in the words of Thompson, “simply to sink into the words and open ourselves to their meaning in our lives. How do we go about this?
There are four phases to spiritual reading. The first to read in a reflective way, slowly, pausing over words which seem to catch our attention. The second phase is meditation, in other words, when we find those words which really catch our attention, then give some thought to why this seems important to us…what is the connection between this text and our lives?
The third phase is speaking. We respond to our reading with our emotion in prayer. If the reading has highlighted our current struggles we will call out, perhaps in pain, if it speaks of our joy we will lift our hearts in praise. If you want some excellent examples of this phase, read through some of the Psalms.
Finally we contemplate. After pouring out in words all that we need to, we sit quietly and give time for God’s response to us. We rest in God’s presence and listen. These steps may go back and forth as we move through a text but the process is not complete without all four.
As you can tell from the steps listed, this is not the kind of
reading we can fit into the 20 minutes between activities and is best not left to the end of the day. When we make a space available in our day for this kind of reading, the Spirit will lead us in finding the meaning of the text for our lives.
God sent His Spirit to us for a reason. The Spirit is a gift to us which comforts us in our pain, helps us when we most need help, exhorts people to be present with God in answering the call to serve others in the world who are in need, advocates for us and provides the link for us to stay in touch with Jesus and through him with God, and, if we let it, reveals the truth in Jesus.
When God sends out His Spirit, plants spring to life– the whole countryside in bloom and blossom.
This is the glory of GOD–let it last forever!
New Testament:Acts 2:1-21
Epistle: Romans 8:22-27
Psalm 104:24-34, 35b
Several years ago my spouse gave me a big book of crossword puzzles for Christmas. There were 316 puzzles in the book, with solutions provided at the back. Over time I have worked away at the puzzles, sometimes losing track of the book for months at a time (housekeeping is not my forte). I found it and have been working on it again since I began my fast at Lent (see Turning it off for Lent http://wp.me/p1hsO8-8T ) Most evenings in the past several months have ended with me curled up in front of the TV with my book on my lap and a pencil in my hand. The challenge of the puzzles is refreshing and the delight when I manage to complete a puzzle without peeking (cheating) is amazing!
So, what does this have to do with the Bible?
Like Bible reading, crossword puzzles are something we often begin to do early in life when we first begin to read and write. I’m sure you remember doing them when you were in grade school.
The older you got, and the more education you gained, the harder the puzzles you were able to solve.
Many people wouldn’t have bothered with another crossword once they got out of public school.
Some continue to challenge themselves and work at the NY Times puzzles daily.
They will go better if you do them in a quiet place without too much distraction.
These puzzles can be affirmation of your knowledge and thinking abilities at times and baffling and completely unclear to you at other times.
Every time you revisit a puzzle you see it differently.
It is nice to have someone with you off whom you can bounce ideas.
The remaining questions sometimes stay in your head for days as you puzzle over their meanings.
If you really can’t get something, there is no shame in peeking, or asking someone for help.
Last night I filled in the last puzzle in the book. Don’t get me wrong, I haven’t completed all the puzzles as many still have holes in them. Some which I started in pen and then got muddled up have a big X through them. Every time I get the book out I go through it to see if I can fill in any more of the holes. It is amazing what a little time and perspective can have on the problems. There are some which I just don’t know, like the names of certain towns in Great Brittain, and those I will look up and hope to remember for another puzzle at a later time.
Unlike crossword puzzles I expect to continue puzzling out and exploring the Bible for the rest of my life.
I was thinking this morning about debt. When we say the Lord’s Prayer at my church one line is, “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.” This is not really talking about financial issues, although I suppose it is not excluding those, but about our sins.
New rules for credt card companies came in as a response to the financial crisis of a couple of years ago. Credit card companies are now required to give two new pieces of information on each statement; the date at which your debt will be paid off if you pay minimum payments, and the date if you pay a larger percentage. This can be a pretty scary thing at which to look, almost scary enough to lead us to start using cash!
What if that same rule were applied to our other debts, those of hurtful words, broken promises, and myriad other sins? What would that statement have to say?
New Balance Total………………. 40 years of sin
Current Payment Due……………. 1 month of good works
Total Minimum Payment Due……1 month of good works
Minimum Payment Due Date…… Next Sunday
Minimum Payment Warning: If you make only the
minimum payment each period, you will pay more in
interest and it will take you longer to pay off your balance.
If you make no additional You will pay off the
charges using this card balance shown on this
and each month you pay statement in about.
by the due date.
Only the minimum payment 100 Years, 6 Months
I obviously made all that up, but even though it seems extreem, I am pretty sure that the time to pay off our own debts would be a lot longer than 100 years, and let’s face it, we aren’t likely to manage not to run the bill up higher over the years! The point is, there is no way that we can pay that debt off on our own. But the good news is that through the grace of God and the loving sacrifice of Jesus, it is already marked
Today we are beginning the pet peeve section of my blog. Well, not really, but today’s topic is certainly one of my pet peeves! I believe that sometime in the last fifteen years the actual meaning of the word humble has been swallowed up and it has moved over into the false-modesty category. When you are elected to office, given a special award, or graduate from something you are being honoured. It is not possible for it to be humbling!
Don’t believe that people really say this? On election night in 2011, “What a great night,” Canadian Prime Minister Harper exclaimed as he addressed cheering supporters in Calgary. “And friends, I have to say it: A strong, stable, national, majority Conservative government. We are grateful, deeply honoured — in fact, humbled — by the decisive endorsement of so many Canadians. We shall be faithful to the trust that you have reposed in us,” (canada.com)
Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia’s acceptance speech following his election as new WCC general secretary 28 August 2003 included the following, “I want to say that for me, this is a very humbling affair. I am deeply humbled by this great honour of being elected the general secretary of the World Council of Churches.”
thefreedictionary.com posts the following definitions
adj. hum·bler, hum·blest
1. Marked by meekness or modesty in behavior, attitude, or spirit; not arrogant or prideful.
2. Showing deferential or submissive respect: a humble apology.
3. Low in rank, quality, or station; unpretentious or lowly: a humble cottage.
tr.v. hum·bled, hum·bling, hum·bles
1. To curtail or destroy the pride of; humiliate.
2. To cause to be meek or modest in spirit.
3. To give a lower condition or station to; abase. See Synonyms at degrade.
I think the reason some people are using the word humble in their acceptance speeches is that they are made to feel “modest in spirit” by the win or honour. What they may be feeling is embarrassment or unworthiness which may sound the same, but if they really felt that way would they not then decline the honour? For many it is a way to insert false-modesty into their speech. Certainly nobody who spends millions of dollars and every waking minute of months of their time campaigning to win an election should feel that they deserve the job or we are in real trouble!
Let’s look at some examples of humbleness. The word humble can be found 25 times in the NRSV translation of the Bible. Moses tells Pharaoh (definitely not an humble person) to humble himself and let the Israelites go and then later speaking to those very people whom God saved tells them that they wandered in the desert for fourty years in order to humble them. (Exo 10:3, Deu 8:2, 16) We are frequently called upon to humble ourselves before God and over and over again it is noted that God hears the humble and does not forget the humble. In Proverbs 6:9 it says, “Better it is to be of an humble spirit with the lowly, than to divide the spoil with the proud.” Later, in the New Testament when it says that the humble will be lifted up it doesn’t mean that if you act humble you will get earthly attention and wealth, but to be truly lifted up into the presence of God.
If none of those examples give a clear picture of true humility, look at Jesus. God humbled himself to the point of being born as a helpless infant in a lambing shed along with the animals. He lived a simple life with his parents and an even simpler life as he traveled the countryside during his ministry. There were no fancy campaign busses (or white steeds), slogans or $100-a-plate fundraising dinners. He didn’t wear fancy clothing like the members of the Sanhedrin, and on the night of the Last Supper he knelt down and washed his disciples feet like a servant, and refused to let his followers fight to save him from arrest. In the next several days he allowed himself to be whipped and beaten, hung on a cross with common criminals, and to be defeated by death. This is humbled.
As we go to bed tonight, let’s pray that the Holy Spirit may enable us to be truly humble in our lives, that we might be lifted up by God.
The 25 uses of the word humble come from; Exo 10:3,Deu 8:2,Deu 8:16,Jdg 19:24,2 Ch 7:14,2,Ch 34:27,Job 22:29,Psa 9:12, Psa 10:12,Psa 10: 17,Psa 34:2,Psa 69:32,Pro 6:3,Pro 16″19,Pro 29:23,Isa 57:15,Jer 13:18,Mat 18:4,Mat 23:12,2 Co 12:21,Jas 4:6,Jas 4:10,1 Pe 5″5,1 Pe 5:6