Transfiguration Sunday 2019: The Epistle Passage – Questioning the Old Testament text

Since, then, we have such a hope, we act with great boldness, not like Moses, who put a veil over his face to keep the people of Israel from gazing at the end of the glory that was being set aside. But their minds were hardened. Indeed, to this very day, when they hear the reading of the old covenant, that same veil is still there, since only in Christ is it set aside. Indeed, to this very day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their minds; but when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed.” ( II Corinthians 3:12 – 16)

I had promised myself if the Epistle passage did not appeal to me today, I would put off writing on it and comment on one of the other two. However (glad to say) Paul did not disappoint! Paul is pretty scathing in his remarks about the “people of Israel” by which I assume he means Jews who have not opened themselves to the Good News of Jesus. Considering that he used to be numbered among such Jews, you would think he would be more gentle. I guess since he is writing to the Corinthians, Gentiles, he felt he could “froth” at the mouth a little.

“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit.” (Verses 17 – 18)

This brings to my mind (sooner than I had expected) the questions I had about the Old Testament passage. Why Moses did what he did, and why the Israelites reacted the way they did. And my unasked question as to whether we, not having the type of direct contact that Moses had with the Divine, can have “glowing” faces ourselves. Pondering this – Moses, except for when he wanted to impart the unvarnished word from the Divine, kept his face covered. Was it because the Israelites were accepting enough of the Divine? Were they too new in faith and untested that it was not for them to be exposed to such reflected glory of God? And if that is so, how does Paul know that these new Christians, these Corinthians, are ready? Or did the acceptance of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection prepare them more than the Israelites were prepared fresh out of Egypt?

“Therefore, since it is by God’s mercy that we are engaged in this ministry, we do not lose heart. We have renounced the shameful things that one hides; we refuse to practice cunning or to falsify God’s word; but by the open statement of the truth we commend ourselves to the conscience of everyone in the sight of God.” (Chapter 4, verses 1 – 2)

Hint beloved reader – Paul is not using the royal “we” meaning himself and his audience. He is referring to himself and those who minister with him. Now, if the Corinthians hold as tightly to the gospel and the word that is preached as Paul does, they too will not lose heart. And will receive all the other blessings that Paul refers to. Paul may be generous in accounting faith and devotion to his audience BUT he expects to see the fruits of that faith.

One last thought, beloved reader, and then I will close. Paul says by “open statement of the truth” and it reminds me again of Moses covering the glory that was on his face from communing with the Lord. I have to wonder if Moses had made more of an effort to draw the Israelites into commune with the Divine if the outcome of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah would have been different. Something to ponder. And to keep in mind when our visage glows from the knowledge of the Lord. As Paul did, beloved reader, spread the word! Selah!

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Transfiguration Sunday 2019: The Old Testament Passage – Questioning the text

Moses came down from Mount Sinai. As he came down from the mountain with the two tablets of the covenant in his hand, Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God.” (Exodus 34:29)

I needed to pause here, beloved reader, to make sure I understood the direction and/or cause of Moses’s shining face – that it shone because he had been practically face to face with the Divine; or he was not aware of the shine because he was so busy being in the Presence of the Divine. And actually, it was probably both – although biblical commentators adhere to the first explanation.

“When Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses, the skin of his face was shining, and they were afraid to come near him. But Moses called to them; and Aaron and all the leaders of the congregation returned to him, and Moses spoke with them.” (Verses 30 – 31)

I also have to stop and wonder why Aaron and the Israelites thought when they saw Moses face, and why were they afraid. What might have Moses said to calm their fears? And did the Divine cause Moses’ face to glow in order to instill proper respect for Moses and the Divine? We know that Moses had been having a hard time keeping the Israelites focused on obeying the commandments that the Divine had set down. And keeping them focused to be the called and chosen people.

“Afterward all the Israelites came near, and he gave them in commandment all that the LORD had spoken with him on Mount Sinai. When Moses had finished speaking with them, he put a veil on his face; but whenever Moses went in before the LORD to speak with him, he would take the veil off, until he came out; and when he came out, and told the Israelites what he had been commanded, the Israelites would see the face of Moses, that the skin of his face was shining; and Moses would put the veil on his face again, until he went in to speak with him.” (Verses 32 – 35)

Moses, in a sense, continued to remind the Israelites that he had been talking to the Divine. While residing with them in every day life, he kept his face covered. But after communing with the Divine, he showed them the evidence of his interactions with the Lord. And I have to wonder why. What was he trying to prove? Or was he not trying to prove anything? Did he not fully appreciate the effect it had on the Israelites?

I guess concerning this passage, I have more questions than answers. What I do know for certain, however, is that it is a very good passage for Transfiguration Sunday. And maybe by the time we get to the Gospel passage I will have some answers to my questions. Shalom!

Seventh Sunday After Epiphany 2019: The Psalm Passage – The unfathomable ways of Christian living, Part II – cease fretting and worrying

Okay, this Psalms passage I need.

“Do not fret because of the wicked; do not be envious of wrongdoers, for they will soon fade like the grass, and wither like the green herb. Trust in the LORD, and do good; so you will live in the land, and enjoy security.” (Psalm 37: 1 – 3)

My “wicked” and “wrongdoers” right now are the lingering side effects of radiation treatment. I know, not your typical “foes.” But for me, they have been “smiting” me mightily, ruining my mood, and souring my predisposition. Who knows, maybe even causing me to “sin”. Or at lest not trusting in the Lord very much!

“Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him, and he will act. He will make your vindication shine like the light, and the justice of your cause like the noonday.” (Verses 4 – 6)

I know I have been a little difficult to live with lately – if for no other reason than I cause my family to worry about me. And there has been a lack of joy of living. These treatments were supposed to save my life; and instead it has caused me to focus on the dreariness of life. I certainly do not feel “vindication”, have not felt “shiny”, nor do I feel there is justice for me. I hold out hope that will change.

“Be still before the LORD, and wait patiently for him; do not fret over those who prosper in their way, over those who carry out evil devices. Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath. Do not fret–it leads only to evil. For the wicked shall be cut off, but those who wait for the LORD shall inherit the land.” (Verses 7 – 9)

I have not been still and patient. I have been fretting – not over the wicked fortunately. But fretting nonetheless. And, to my shame, I have been doubting that those who oversee my treatment have been keeping my best good in mind. If I envision the tumor that necessitated this treatment as “the wicked [who] shall be cut off” – that would be a good and positive image.

“Yet a little while, and the wicked will be no more; though you look diligently for their place, they will not be there. But the meek shall inherit the land, and delight themselves in abundant prosperity.” (Verses 10 -11)

Actually, I could wish that I had that image in my mind during treatment. But it is not to let to let that image be my rallying thought. Part of the reason I am still “suffering” from these ill effects is because the radiation treatment, while actively over, is still working on killing off the tumor. So I need to hold these thought from the psalmist in my mind.

What things do you have in your mind and in your life that is warping your outlook and stealing your joy, beloved reader? Does the psalmist perhaps speak for you as well?

“The salvation of the righteous is from the LORD; he is their refuge in the time of trouble. The LORD helps them and rescues them; he rescues them from the wicked, and saves them, because they take refuge in him.” (Verses 39 – 40)

What I have been doing is taking refuge in the Lord. At times pleading to the Lord to help and deliver me. At other times to heal me. And at other times to help me endure. One of the things I have learned to value from the psalms is to allow them to speak to my fears and disheartening times. There was a book that I came across, must have been a year ago, that spoke about using the psalms to lament and weep. I worked my way through it slowly, absorbing the lessons. I think that might be part of the reason that at times I grew impatient with the “cheery” psalms. I was not at that part of my life at the time. But with God’s grace I came through to the point I am now.

Where are you, beloved reader, in your journey? Are there things, people, events, and issues that are causing you to fret? I cannot promise you that they will be resolved. But I can recommend you to bring those frets to the Lord. To allow these words of the psalmist to ease your times. And to rely on the Divine to see you through! Selah!

Seventh Sunday After Epiphany 2019: The Gospel Passage – The unfathomable ways of Christian living – love, compassion, forgiveness, and mercy

“But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.” (Luke 6:27 – 28)

There are several people I have known in my life who I have found it very hard to forgive them and wish them well. I suspect a lot of people have had that experience. It would be nice to study Jesus’ words very carefully and find a loophole that allows you to seethe inside while being outwardly cordial and calm. But I have to tell you, beloved reader, Jesus is pretty careful to close up the loopholes. And what it appears that Jesus may not covered because of translation gaps, commentators have taken into account. Or when you take into account the shift of context and perspective because of cultural difference, you will find yourself up against stiff prohibitions against withholding Christian concern.

“If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. Do to others as you would have them do to you.” (Verses 29 – 31)

And do not think, beloved reader, that it is only the “saints” who conduct interpersonal relationships in this way. Yes, saints are “saintly” but Jesus is speaking to all of his followers. And if his words here are not sufficient, think how he lived them out in his life and death.

“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again.” (Verses 32 – 34)

What one has to see is that this is not a burden added on to your life, but freeing because it rids you of all the hate, violence, grievance, pettiness etc that humanity can carry around that is actually a heavy burden to bear.

“But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. “Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.” (Verses 35 – 38)

I will be quite honest, beloved reader, when I first started reading this people came to my mind that had intentionally or unintentionally wounded or hurt me; and the old feeling came springing up again – “I have to forgive them?!” And yet I knew it was true – I had to let those negative feelings go (again) to make room for positive feelings. To be open to what Christ has in store for me. If I keep hold of those negative emotions and sentiments, I will not be ready to receive all the good things that the Lord God the Divine has for me. And quite honestly, there have been too many tough times in my life lately to shut off the possibility of good coming. If it means letting go of my grievances etc to get to better times, I am ready to “turn the other cheek.” I hope and pray you are too beloved reader! Selah!

Seventh Sunday After Epiphany 2019: The Epistle Passage – The fathomable ways of the physical and spiritual bodies

But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?” Fool! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. And as for what you sow, you do not sow the body that is to be, but a bare seed, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain. But God gives it a body as he has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body. So it is with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable.” (I Corinthians 15:35 – 38, 42)

Before I start in with my commentary, beloved reader, I HAVE TO share with you the way the New Living Translation phrases verse 42: “It is the same way with the resurrection of the dead. Our earthly bodies are planted in the ground when we die, but they will be raised to live forever.” I knew that the writer of I Corinthians was drawing on plain-faced metaphors, but that is sort of jarring!

To trace back in Paul’s metaphor/analogy. When one plants a crop, the seed is not considered to be “alive” until it sprouts and grows. What is planted (that is, our human lives) bears little responsible to the plant that grows from the ground (that is, the spirit that is raised to heaven). So the question is not what sort of the body the raised dead will have, but will those who have died be raised up to heaven. However, that is not the direction that Paul discourse travels. Continuing on with the his description of the human body . . . .

“It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. It is sown a physical body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a physical body, there is also a spiritual body.” (Verses 43 – 44)

You get the sense, beloved reader, that Paul does not think much of the physical body. And he seems to be directing his readers to dismiss the physical body and embrace the destine of the spiritual body.

“Thus it is written, “The first man, Adam, became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. But it is not the spiritual that is first, but the physical, and then the spiritual.” (Verses 45 – 46)

Is it just me, or does Paul seem to be saying we need to endure having a physical body before we are awarded a spiritual one?

“The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. As was the man of dust, so are those who are of the dust; and as is the man of heaven, so are those who are of heaven. Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we will also bear the image of the man of heaven. What I am saying, brothers and sisters, is this: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.” (Verses 47 – 50)

Or maybe I am just sensitive right now about the shortcomings of the physical body. I am still in the processing of healing. Do not fear though, beloved reader (& my mother,) by the time you read this I will have had another week at least of healing and will probably feel better. Right now however, I have pains and aches that I thought I would be over and done with. Paul does not talk about pains of the body, but he is pretty clear about what he feels are the shortcomings of the physical, perishable, dishonorable, weak, dusty, flesh and blood body.

The other issue I have with Paul’s dismissal of the body is that the soul and spirit that are said to be imperishable is firmly entwined in the body. We are not distinct body/psyche spirits, but a melding together of the two. Maybe, perhaps, I am being too judgmental of what the imperishable body will be; maybe Paul does believe and understand that the imperishable will retain a physical form that is an “improved” version of our mind/body self. I guess that is yet another question I will have of Paul in the world to come.

May you, beloved reader, honor that which is honorable and distance yourself from that which will bar you from eternal life. Selah!

Seventh Sunday After Epiphany 2019: The Old Testament Passage – The unfathomable ways of the Divine

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.” (Genesis 45:3)

We jump into the last part of the story of Joseph. From a boy with a multi-colored coat to the Pharaoh’s chief steward – it was quite a leap. No wonder his brothers are stunned beyond speech.

“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. 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.” (Verses 4 – 8)

I can’t help but see the irony that the Hebrews – what little cluster of them that there were – grew to such a large group that the Egyptians generations after Joseph became fearful of them and enslaved them. Is this how the Lord God planned on preserving this “remnant”? Did Joseph see down the generations to this outcome? And yet under the protections of the Egyptians the Hebrews did grow and multiply. But at what cost?

“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. 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.’ “(Verses 9 – 11)

And yet who are we to question the ways of the Divine. A small group of Hebrews, properly not much more than Israel’s sons and what wives they have taken, eking out an existence in the middle of a famine. Maybe Joseph was right to over protection to them. Maybe he knew they would not survive where they were. Many things are done under the eyes and with the approval of the Divine that we do not understand. That is true of many things in the Old Testament; why should the story of Joseph be any different?

“And he kissed all his brothers and wept upon them; and after that his brothers talked with him.” (Verse 15)

What we do need to remember that all things that the Divine does are done out of love. Now, discerning between what are the intentional acts of the Divine, and what things have been attributed to the will of the Divine by humanity is a complete different story, and one far too large to be discussed in just one posting! Shalom!!

 

Sixth Sunday After Epiphany 2019: The Psalm Passage – Kudos to the psalmist for reminding us of how to live a good Christian life

Happy are those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or take the path that sinners tread, or sit in the seat of scoffers; but their delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law they meditate day and night. They are like trees planted by streams of water, which yield their fruit in its season, and their leaves do not wither. In all that they do, they prosper.” (Psalm 1:1 – 3)

I get stuck on the word “happy” beloved reader. What does the psalmist mean by “happy”? The NIV says “blessed” and I find that word goes down easier. In fact in other translations the word “blessed” is used more often. And that eases my discontent. Because right now I am not “happy” but I do feel blessed. As of this writing I am healing from the radiation treatment but it feels like I have a long way to go. But I feel blessed that I got through the treatment, and that healing will come – just not sure of the pace and course of healing. But . . . . the psalmist is not talking about physicality but the state of one’s soul and spirituality. And that beloved reader is still intact.

Yesterday I talked about heeding the lessons that Jesus set out for his disciples and those within his hearing. And we who have head it across the years and generations should pay heed also. The psalmist does well in anticipating what Jesus would say in the “Sermon on the Plain.”

“The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; for the LORD watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.” (Verses 4 – 6)

You may say to me, heed these words yourself Carole! And I do, and tuck them in my heart placing my hopes in and on them; “the Lord watches over the way of the righteous.” So even if I feel down and not “happy” I can keep hope alive in me and anticipate better days. I can take comfort in being blessed, and wait until being “happy” is more possible. I am trying beloved reader, I am trying! Selah!