The Weeks & Sundays After Pentecost, Yr A, 2020: Old Testament Passage – The called and chosen people – what should they be doing anyway?

Thus says the LORD: Maintain justice, and do what is right, for soon my salvation will come, and my deliverance be revealed.” (Isaiah 56:1)

Soon, the Lord’s salvation will come soon. One could be on the pessimistic side and say, this was written in the time of Isaiah; and the Israelites had to wait until the coming of Jesus. But even that was not salvation that came and settled on earth to stay. Because the opposite of salvation seems to be doing pretty intense business right now!

But at heart, I am not pessimistic. Actually, salvation and deliverance was always available to the Israelites, and before them to the Hebrews and those who followed that God who called out Abraham. It’s just that the message did not sink in and take root. When daily survival is one’s focus, what will come in the hereafter tends to get pushed aside. That might explain somewhat the current dismissal of authentic Christian living.

It took the personage of Jesus Christ, on earth and right next to the people, for the message that the Lord God had been trying to convey to be understood. And even then there were some who did not get it. But . . . . my supposition is that salvation and deliverance are really within easy grasp. Humanity has the tendency to look for the end result that comes with ease and is handed to them, corporately, without having to work hard. The writer of Isaiah says to maintain justice and do what is right – then salvation and deliverance will become evident. Jesus exemplified what justice and doing right looks like. Might that be the “magic” formula for salvation and deliverance? I suspect so.

“And the foreigners who join themselves to the LORD, to minister to him, to love the name of the LORD, and to be his servants, all who keep the Sabbath, and do not profane it, and hold fast my covenant– these I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.” (Verses 6 – 7)

Maintain justice and do what is right – that sounds like something that anyone could do. You may quibble about what is “justice” and what is “right to do” – but actually that is just quibbling to sidestep what you know in your heart of hearts should be done. The “Golden Rule” is not based on any certain strain of theology or tenets of faith. Compassion and care of another is not the monopoly of Christianity. And actually, sadly, Christianity seems to have lost its gripe on that set of attributes. On that, I confess to having some pessimism.

“Thus says the Lord GOD, who gathers the outcasts of Israel, I will gather others to them besides those already gathered.” (Verse 8)

It is hard to know, beloved reader, what of the faith beliefs that the Hebrews and Israelites had were directly from the Divine and what was created or crafted by them according to their understanding at the time. I am trying to sort through my mind what the prophets said directly about having faith in the Lord God and what the people of the Old Testament did in order to keep the faith they understood as pure and pristine as they thought they should. I think of Elijah who was “zealous” for the Lord.

Like last week, I am grappling with where this week’s scripture passage will go. I rest on the inspiration and guidance of the Holy Presence to discern where my reflections will go. And in fact, that is probably the sort of advice the called and chosen people should have heeded! Shalom & Selah!

The Weeks & Sundays After Pentecost, Yr A, 2020: Psalm Passage – Leaving behind draining fear, and running towards the Presence & Shalom of the Divine

Let me hear what God the LORD will speak, for he will speak peace to his people, to his faithful, to those who turn to him in their hearts.” (Psalm 85:8)

I started this week’s reflections on scripture based on the idea the Elijah was running away from a situation that he did not consciously plan on but felt lead to complete, due to his being “very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts.” Later in the week I considered that maybe Elijah was not running in fear but retreating to rejuvenate himself and prepare for what was to come. Just as Jesus often retreated to communion with the Lord God who sent him. Now I consider that “fear” of the Lord, which is not fear that paralyzes but fear that draws forth awe and worship (like the disciples worshiping Jesus who walked on water and calmed the sea). But still, we journey in this life – towards that which will support and under gird us.

“Surely his salvation is at hand for those who fear him, that his glory may dwell in our land.” (Verse 9)

This running from & running towards bespeaks a good deal of action and energy. But where is rest and shalom? (Answer coming.)

“Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet; righteousness and peace will kiss each other. Faithfulness will spring up from the ground, and righteousness will look down from the sky. The LORD will give what is good, and our land will yield its increase.” (Verses 10 – 13)

We abide, beloved reader, in our world but we walk and act according to the kingdom that we are assured will come. In the Kingdom of God faithfulness springs up under us and righteousness looks down upon us – like look cool verdant grass and cool cloudless sky. But here, in our present reality, it may seem there is little relief from stress & turmoil, aggression & hatred, violence & war. We would run away in far if there was not hope or relief in our reality; maybe that is what Elijah felt. The disciples in that “little boat” probably felt pressed upon and endangered. But Jesus came out to meet them, right where they were. And the Presence of the Lord came to Elijah in a quiet and gentle way, as opposed to the turmoil he had just been through. Paul told us that the righteous that calms and soothes comes from our faith in Jesus Christ and the Divine. Which is good because our present reality does little to calm and soothe.

The psalmist says of the Divine, “Righteousness will go before him, and will make a path for his steps.” (Verse 13). There is also a path for us, beloved reader. This path of righteousness is also for us; not that righteousness will automatically stretch out in front of us. But that of all the possible paths that are before us, we should seek and chose the righteous path.

It is good to know what to run from, beloved reader. And it is also good to know what to run to. May you chose wisely, and may the Presence of the Holy Spirit guide your way. Shalom & Selah!

The Weeks & Sundays After Pentecost, Yr A, 2020: Epistle Passage – Leaving behind what you fear, and running towards hope and the presence of the Divine, Part III

Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone . . .” (Matthew 14:22 – 23)

Last week’s gospel passage was a “big reveal” for Jesus. A large group of people – five thousand men plus women and children the gospel tells us – saw what a prayerful Jesus was capable of. Maybe the experience drained him and he needed to rejuvenate himself. Or maybe he did not want to answer a lot of questions as to what happened there with the two loaves of bread and five fish. I am not suggesting that Jesus was “running away” or was fearful. There is a difference between fleeing in fear & apprehension, and withdrawing to consider what has happened & what next steps should be. And maybe I did Elijah a disservice by assuming fear was his motivation.

Jesus withdrawal might have more similarities to what Paul was writing about. Leaving behind old ways of thinking that depended on the laws that Moses brought down from the mountain, and embracing a new idea and concept of righteousness. Is it hard for you to imagine, beloved reader, Jesus needing to ponder on what is best to do? If it were not for Jesus’ prayer in the garden of Gethsemane, I (and you maybe) would think that Jesus was “fearless” striding ahead without any doubt or hesitation. Maybe, just maybe, Jesus was not running “away” but towards the Divine to speak with the Lord God who had sent him.

“. . . . but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them. And early in the morning he came walking toward them on the sea.” (Verses 24 – 25)

What must have that night in prayer wrought in Jesus Christ?! The evening before needing to withdraw and process the event with the five thousand. Now, in the morning, calmly walking out on the rolling sea toward his disciples.

“But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.” Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus.” (Verses 26 – 29)

Now it is the disciples turn to leave their fears behind and journey towards hope and the Divine. As is so typical, Peter does it in a dramatic way. Do you notice, beloved reader because I am sure you did/do, that Peter at first walks with the same ease.

“But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Verses 30 – 31)

But when he pays attention to his fears and takes his focus off of Jesus the Christ, he falters and sinks. What a metaphor for sinning – although I do not mean that Peter sinned. But when we take our eyes off the Divine, we tend to lose our way. But praise be to the Lord God, the Divine finds us and lifts us up again so that we might continue the journey towards hope in the Divine that does not fail us.

“When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.” (Verses 32 – 33)

I have this mental picture, beloved readers, of this tiny little boat that the disciples are all crowded into. And in this small confined space Jesus the Christ steps in, and in such awe they prostrate themselves in worship. You see, when I think of corporate worship, think of large spaces with pews, altars, and such. To worship corporately in a small space seems hard to envision. In my defense, the Greek word used does mean prostrate in worship. Maybe I have to re-image it as a bigger boat.

When I started this series of scripture for the week, I did not intend for it to be a sustained theme. But it just seems to have turned out that way. It is a good motif, though, for our current times. Letting our fears drop away and focusing on the Divine, and seeking our hope there. It excites and intrigues me to see how the Psalm passage might fit into this. Be sure to find out tomorrow.

May the Lord God who bids us to cast aside all fear be with you, and may you find hope and peace under the Wing of the Divine! Shalom & Selah!

The Weeks & Sundays After Pentecost, Yr A, 2020: Epistle Passage – Leaving behind what you fear, and running towards hope and the presence of the Divine, Part II

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

Yesterday we left Elijah at the mouth of the cave where the Presence of the Lord passed by. Elijah was lamenting that know one seemed faith to the Lord anymore – their righteousness was gone and they no longer lived according to the law. So Elijah had to be “zealous” and stamp out the disbelief, and eradicate those who fostered and lead this disbelief. Paul says, however . . . .

“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).
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. 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 6 – 11)

Elijah speaks of the Israelites as a whole group whose disbelief condemned them as a whole. And the sins of those who were most vile have broken the covenant with the Lord for all. Paul, on the other hand, considers each individual person. Now he was writing to a whole group who lived in Rome, but his message and exhortation is focused on the individual. Moreover, it was not just the called and chosen people of Israel that this applied to, but all people. And the covenant rested not on the behavior and beliefs of the individual but the redeeming action of Christ.

“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.” 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 12 – 15)

In the twenty-four hours since I wrote yesterday’s post, I have been thinking about it. Turning over in my mind Elijah’s statement before and after the Presence of the Lord past before him. The statements are identical. I am leaning towards concluding that Elijah is worn out and used up. Elijah does not do much for the reminder of I Kings; he does pronounce a judgment against King Ahab and his wife. Being his time draws short, and Elisha is being mentored to become a prophet himself.

It would be interesting to contrast further Elijah and New Testament apostles. But I do not wish to present such a contrast. At some point the Yahweh of the Old Testament gives way to the Lord God of the New Testament, and Jesus the Christ becomes the new symbol and exemplar. The Israelites were encouraged by the prophets who testified during the occupations and exiles of the Israelites and Judahites. Again, tracing that transition would be interesting. But again, I do not wish to trace such an evolution.

We have enough to contend with in our modern lives. Those who are of such an age can look back and see how humanity has traveled in the past decades. Christians who are of such an age can look back and see how Christianity has changed over the years. I was ready to say where we were then gave us not portent to where we are now – but that is not true. I saw it, and I am sure others saw it. But what we were to do?

Maybe Elijah had the right of it, in a way. Run away from impending doom, and run towards the Lord. But, beloved reader, we MUST allow the Divine to inform and guide us. When things are at their dim us and most forlorn is when the Presence of the Divine can be the most evident. Not in the chaos and upheaval, but in the quiet and the calm. There we will get our direction, and we can move forward to where the Divine would have us be. Do not give up hope, beloved reader. Remember there are still many who have not succumbed to the evil of the land. Shalom & Selah!

The Weeks & Sundays After Pentecost, Yr A, 2020: Old Testament Passage – Leaving behind what you fear, and running towards hope and the presence of the Divine

At that place he came to a cave, and spent the night there. Then the word of the LORD came to him, saying, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” (I Kings 19:9)

Elijah was running away. He had gone up against Ahab and now Jezebel was out to get him. So he journeyed a great distance, forty days and nights to Horeb the mount of God, the scriptures tell us. I have often felt I wanted to disappear into the ground, safe & sound, pull it around me to comfort me. For a time I used a shawl to wrap myself in when times were tough.

“He answered, “I have been very zealous for the LORD, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away.” (Verse 10)

From Elijah’s statement to the Lord, you can understand how Elijah might be afraid. What Elijah did not say is that he had withhold water from the land, proved the authenticity of the Lord God, and smote the prophets of Baal. His actions were fearless. But now he is afraid. I can actually understand the dichotomy that Elijah is feeling. I will quite often take actions that I know are right and good, but become afraid of the outcome, quivering to see what will happen. Even with experiencing that time and time again, I still act boldly and decisively, and then are nervous until the outcome is seen.

But, Elijah’s destiny was to not be fearful, but be sustained in the Lord’s Presence.

“He said, “Go out and stand on the mountain before the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by.” Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence.” (Verses 11 – 12)

Often times the Lord comes in the quiet and stillness. The world marches loudly and brazenly, acting in ways that cause ache and heartache, and more. We have seen it in our current days. We may think, I must be loud too. I must bang drums and cymbals, yell and scream, tear things apart to show our inner feelings. These are not the brave actions I was talking about above, but noisy actions that gain nothing but sound and fury.

“When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. Then there came a voice to him that said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” He answered, “I have been very zealous for the LORD, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away.” (Verses 13 – 14)

While I am very familiar with this story, as I worked my way through it I puzzled why the second statement that Elijah gave was the same as the first. Was there no learning here after seeing and hearing that the Divine was not in the noise and the brashness? Moreover, was my interpretation above inaccurate? The commentator I consulted states that both statement were filled with brashness. But then Elijah’s concern of death does not seem to be a fear but a proud statement. So, why did he run away?

“Then the LORD said to him, “Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus; when you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael as king over Aram. Also you shall anoint Jehu son of Nimshi as king over Israel; and you shall anoint Elisha son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah as prophet in your place. Whoever escapes from the sword of Hazael, Jehu shall kill; and whoever escapes from the sword of Jehu, Elisha shall kill.” (Verses 15 – 17)

Loose cannon. Maybe. It is interesting that it is at this point that a successor to Elijah is named. I/we know from further passages that the taking on of Elisha as a prophet heralds the end of Elijah’s ministry on earth. This passage is really puzzling me; it makes me wonder if I might have to reconsider the theme for this week, and delve into the passage at a greater depth. For now, let us leave things here. As the Lord God said, there is still some hope left.

“Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.” (Verse 18)

The Weeks & Sundays After Pentecost, Yr A, 2020: Psalm Passage – Wrestling and grasping with living in our current circumstances: listening in to Preacher and Seeker

Seeker: “Hear a just cause, O LORD; attend to my cry; give ear to my prayer from lips free of deceit.”
Preacher:
What brings you to prayer now Seeker? If there is a burden on your soul, please know that I am hear and ready to listen. Seeker: Sometimes Preacher I feel so overwhelmed by what is happening in the world. I know the Lord is with us, and we have not been abandoned by the Divine. But it is such a struggle to grapple with the world. My spirit wanes, and my hope seems to be blown away by the adversity I see. In all of this Preacher, I have to hope that my weakness does not lead to sin.
Preacher: “From you let my vindication come; let your eyes see the right.”
Our current reality presses in on us all. And be assured, Seeker, the Lord will uphold you.
Seeker:
Then I say with the psalmist, “If you try my heart, if you visit me by night, if you test me, you will find no wickedness in me; my mouth does not transgress.”
Preacher:
Do not think, dear beloved Seeker, that I am immune to the discord and angst I see and feel in the world. But like the psalmist says, “As for what others do, by the word of your lips I have avoided the ways of the violent.” I know you Seeker, you have not and will not fall into harsh and violent ways.
Seeker: “My steps have held fast to your paths; my feet have not slipped.”
You have shown yourself to be a good model for me, Preacher. You have done as the psalmist says, “I call upon you, for you will answer me, O God; incline your ear to me, hear my words.”
Preacher:
Seeker, if I have done well, it is because the Divine has held me up. “Wondrously show your steadfast love, O Savior of those who seek refuge from their adversaries at your right hand.” While you may think your faith and strong spirits are sinking under the weight of all things, the Lord God’s strength will be a firm foundation. The is solid Divine support beneath you.
Seeker:
The psalmist declares for all of us, “As for me, I shall behold your face in righteousness; when I awake I shall be satisfied, beholding your likeness.” ( Psalm 17:1-7, 15)

The Weeks & Sundays After Pentecost, Yr A, 2020: Gospel Passage – Wrestling and grasping what it means to follow the Messiah and the Lord God the Divine

Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a deserted place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns.” (Matthew 14:13)

What Jesus heard – his cousin and his comrade in ministry, had been put to death by Herod. Herod’s wife, who did not like what John the Baptist was saying to and about her, connived a plan to bring about John’s death. And Jesus was grieving, and understandably wanted to grieve and mourn privately. But Jesus had become a very public figure, and would become even more so.

“When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick. When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a deserted place, and the hour is now late; send the crowds away so that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” Jesus said to them, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” (Verses 14 – 16)

Jesus’ good humor restored, or his seeing a teachable moment, tossed out a slightly impossible suggestion.

“They replied, “We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish.” (Verse 17)

Remember, Jesus did have his time away. And perhaps John’s death reminded him and helped him to take the next step in teaching his disciples and the crowd what it meant to trust in him and the Lord God who sent him. I am just theorizing; Jesus probably knew that John the Baptist’s time on earth was limited. And John’s death might have been a foreshadowing of the cost to following Jesus and the Lord God. But there were “perks” as well.

“And he said, “Bring them here to me.” Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And all ate and were filled; and they took up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full. And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.” (Verses 18 – 21)

Can you, or have you ever imagined that scene beloved reader? A large tract of land, perhaps even a hill side, covered with people sitting down. The NRSV titles this section “the Feeding of the Five Thousand”. I do not what size of ground five thousand would fill, but the prospect of just using five loaves of bread & two fishes to feed them all seems more than a little optimistic and even far-fetched. Read carefully what it sees in these verses. Each disciple, however many there were was only given a PORTION of a loaf of bread and PART of a fish. And from that they started passing out the food. The pieces of bread never ran out, and there was lots of fish to go around. And leftovers?!?!? There were leftovers! Any potluck I have been to, the leftovers were taken home by those who attended. So not only did Jesus feed them there, but he supplied them with food for their journey back home!

We have talked about the hard times we are going through, and if I have not recently talked about that, it is only because you know so well and too well the current circumstances. We talk about the Divine supplying us with what we need. We doubt, because our need is so great. We wonder how the Lord God will provide, especially when there seems to be so many in need, and such varying needs. This story is in testimony to the fact that the Divine provides everything we need to survive our days; well, maybe not material things like, say, loaves & fishes. Jesus provided the five thousand with what they needed for their bodies. After the coming of the Holy Spirit what was & is provided is nourishment for our spirits.

That is part of the wrestling and grasping too; that the Divine does not always provide for bodily needs. And we do struggle to understand that. Maybe what the Divine is telling us is to offer up what little we have, and the Lord God will multiply it so that the needs of those around us are filled with abundance left over. I guess, beloved reader, then the “ball is in our court.”

May you beloved reader wrestle and be able to grasp the concepts and meanings in your faith & spiritual life. And may the Divine bless you with abundance so that you might share with others. Shalom & Selah!

The Weeks & Sundays After Pentecost, Yr A, 2020: Epistle Passage – Wrestling and Grasping with Predestination and Inheritance of Faith

I am speaking the truth in Christ–I am not lying; my conscience confirms it by the Holy Spirit– I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart.” (Romans 9:1 – 2)

In the previous chapter, chapter eight, Paul is jubilant that nothing can separate a true believer from Jesus Christ and the Lord God. There is a “however”, however, that if one does not believe in Jesus Christ as sent by the Lord God, then one is outside of Christian faith. And Paul mourns with deep groaning.

“For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my own people, my kindred according to the flesh.” (Verse 3)

Paul reminds himself and his readers that he is from Hebrew/Israelite/Jewish stock. It was to them that the Messiah would first come, and it was assumption that all Jews would recognize the Messiah. But that was not the case. Some did, and Paul rejoices in that & rejoices that the truth of the Messiah Jesus was made clear to him. But he mourns for those Jews for whom that was not clear, and may never be clear. I suspect (and some of the biblical commentators have voice this opinion also) that Paul is unsure at times whether his being sent to the Gentiles was a good thing. In his mind, it is possible he has left behind the offspring of his forebearers for the sake of others.

“They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises; to them belong the patriarchs, and from them, according to the flesh, comes the Messiah, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen.” (Verses 4 – 5)

It was from Hebrew/Israelite/Jewish stock that Jesus came from, and it was the prophecies amongst the called & chosen people that the clues to Jesus were made known. How could they have missed it? And what is Paul to do now??

We are fortunate, beloved reader, that our spiritual forebearers passed on to us Christian believes; whether it be actual family, friends, or people who simply evangelized to us – the clues and news of Jesus were made known to us, and we believed.

My grandmother on my father’s side came from Jewish stock. And when she came to faith, she felt the same burning that Paul did. She started to evangelize along with my grandfather/her husband, and their son/my father also joined in their work. So I stand in a proud tradition of bringing the good news to those around me – primarily through posts/blogs such as this. My role, as it has evolved, is not so much spreading the initial “good news” but nurturing believers who have come to faith and sustaining faith and spirituality in mature believers. But all roles are important. And we all wrestle with how to do it best.

I would ask therefore, beloved readers, that you keep in prayer me and others who spread and sustain faith. Shalom & Selah!

The Weeks & Sundays After Pentecost, Yr A, 2020: Old Testament Passage – Wrestling and Grasping with Fate

I like hearing about a “good” struggle, when someone is up against it and prevails over staggering odds. In many ways that has been my story over the years, struggling and trying to prevail. It has been close at times, not sure whether I would prevail but hoping and praying like crazy that I would.

Jacob struggle in his parent’s household; not what his father expected from a son, and finding more solace in domestic activities which won his mother’s heart. When he tried to attain the status that his slightly old brother had, it backfired and he found himself far from home. But he also found God, and then found a wife; and then he found his soulmate, and that calmed his heart. So he turned towards home and to face all those memories of growing up, and his slightly older brother.

“The same night he got up and took his two wives, his two maids, and his eleven children, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. He took them and sent them across the stream, and likewise everything that he had.” (Genesis 32:22 – 23)

Now, this is the part where it gets interesting. All that he had and acquired he sent to safely, and it was just him alone struggling with the past and grasping to see what the future would be. I have been in that place myself, away from all comfortable and known settings and waiting to see what the future would bring. And I have struggled. My struggles, however, were figurative and internal. But nonetheless draining and exhausting.

Jacob was alone on the banks of waterway, and was alone with his thoughts . . . . and his fears.

Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he struck him on the hip socket; and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. Then he said, “Let me go, for the day is breaking.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go, unless you bless me.” (Verses 24 – 26)

Struggling, wrestling, grasping with feelings, conflicts, and situations . . . . in the dark. And then sucker punched. After all that, surviving & enduring, you are not going to stop and let go until something positive comes out of it.

“So he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” Then the man said, “You shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with humans, and have prevailed.” Then Jacob asked him, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And there he blessed him.” (Verses 27 – 29)

I do not think, beloved reader, that it was just this conflict that earned Jacob now Israel the blessing. I think it was the ongoing conflict and struggle that Israel has all of his life. He went searching for what he needed, found it, and then earned the right to claim it as his own. And now, coming back to the area that was “home” and facing the past he left behind he found the depth of blessing he has been searching for. Not the birthright that came from being the head of a family, and not the blessing that came from one’s earthly parents; but the peace of mind knowing that you have done the right thing.

Sometimes those are the mightiest struggles of all: knowing and identifying what is right, and seeing what the cost will be & what it will take to accomplish it, and then forging ahead to complete what has to be done.

“So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life is preserved.” The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping because of his hip.” (Verses 30 – 31)

Mark it well, beloved reader, many times after such a struggle you will feel wounded and wonder how you will carry on. Your wounds though, may very will be the signs that you have overcome. Wear them bravely, for they are badges of honor. Shalom & Selah!

Creating & Stepping Into a Gap

I do not often step away from the Revised Common Lectionary and speak out of the weekly cycle I have created. But I am feeling that now, today, I need to speak up. I have been reading Michelle Obama’s book “Becoming” and have been intrigued and impressed by what I have read. It has been a revelation, hearing what happened before his presidency and what was going on behind the scenes. The book was written, I am guessing, in 2017, and was published in 2018. The year and time of its publishing will become significant as I continue.

I have just finished the part of her story when Trump was elected president. Her and her husband’s shock and dismay at his election match my own – at the time. But now, reading this book in these current days, I look back at the time and mourn the innocence we had then – thinking that it was just an overall poor choice by the voting public. We had no idea, beloved reader, what would happen in the years after Trump’s inauguration. I don’t have to remind you, I am sure, of the increasing “debris” of poor choices, statements, and tweets he has made – to delicately state the issue. Comparing then, as Michelle narrates that time in the country’s life, to now – the tragedy of our current situation is made so clear.

I am not usually politically minded; I do not talk about politics nor let it sway my pondering or meditations. That may tell you, my longtime readers, how much Trump’s presidency has effected me. And reading about the days following Trump’s election, seeing it through Michelle Obama’s eyes, has settled a lead weight in my thoughts. Reminiscences of the past four years streak across my thinking, and I am shocked to a standstill and am moved to mourn.

I live in Oregon, about 3 hours away from Portland. The events in Portland sear across the headlines, here in Oregon and I have to assume across the nation. And, if the news pundit are correct, other cities are set to experience the same thing. This has to end, beloved reader. It has to change. We have endured coming close to four full years. And it is threatening to tear our nation apart. Not to mention how the rest of the global community sees us. If you did know it before, reading her book, you will realize how our national imagine rose under former President Obama; and now, how it has fallen.

Back in 2017 I thought, as long as Trump does not do anything that cannot be undone after four years – we will be okay. Then I thought, what has happened thus far – we can mend. Later still I thought, I just hope there is enough of the United States left that we can salvage. Now, it just feels like so much is lost. So many people, through so much violence and illness. So much natural resources, gone and more being threatened. And our image – well, it was bad enough when we were hated as a nation. I think now that we are pitied, the hurt is worse.

I am actually not an American citizen. I was born and still am a Canadian citizen living in the United States legally since 1982. My opinion may not matter much. I have the “privilege” of paying taxes, but not the “privilege” of voting. That is one of the reasons I try not to wear or portray any political motif. And you know, really, my written statements in the past year or two have not been politically motivated; I speak out from humanitarian and Christian conscience. Because to stay silent would be, well, unimaginable.

This has to end, beloved reader. It just has to end. I do not have a vote to cast. And even if I did, my one vote would matter little. But I do have a voice. And I will speak up. I will speak against aggression, hatred, and violence. I have spoke against it before. But now I will give it a name. There is this impression that one’s words do not matter. That when one speaks hateful demeaning words, it does not matter, because words are just sounds from our mouth. But as Jesus rightly said, the words of our mouth give evidence of our inner thoughts. And our inner thoughts motivate our actions. And our actions can create an environment where aggression, hatred, and violence are tolerated and even encouraged. Words then, in a direct trajectory, create actions. Where hatred in isolation, confined to one or two people may not amount to much; but when hatred leaps into a larger group, the results can be devastating. It does not matter, or should not matter, who is speaking the hatred to who. The results can warp and destroy anyone it comes in contact with. Protesting hatred, speaking up that hatred cannot, should not, and will not be tolerated, is a noble thing to do. But when protesting crosses the line to aggression, hatred and violence – we have all lost out and we will all suffer.

This has to end, beloved reader. It just has to end. Let me be very clear. A second presidency by Donald Trump will destroy us in ways we cannot imagine. In fact, I do not want to imagine it. But at the end of 2016, I did not want to imagine what the next four years would be like. I am not endorsing any candidate. What I am doing is raising my voice to clearly say is that the last four years should be a wake call for us to be very careful who is the next US president. Words matter, beloved reader. The thoughts and opinions behind the words matter. Words can reveal the nature of a person, especially someone who had not learned or refuses to assess their words and their communications.

I comment on scripture because they are illuminative, pointing us to Christian thoughts and deeds. We can hear the voice of the Divine through scripture, and with the guidance of the Holy Presence we can discern what is best to do. Those whose words, thoughts, and actions going against the Divine’s Word should be held in wariness until their true personality is revealed. And it will be, beloved reader. If I have learned anything in the past four years, it will be.

May you beloved reader, where ever you are, discern wisely those who are around you, and those who seek your support. And may the Lord God be with us as we entire into the election season. Shalom & Selah!

P.S. This post is making a special appearance on the blog site, “A Simple Desire” as well as here. Now that I have raised my voice, I want it to be heard!