Advent Season 2019, Year A – Second Sunday of Advent: The Epistle Passage – Hope comes from peace and harmony

For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, so that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope.
May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in harmony with one another, in accordance with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 15:4 – 6)

I am assuming that Paul is talking about the Torah (Pentateuch in Greek) and the other writings that would have been used in the Jewish community. It was Paul’s belief (and a good many commentators that I have read) that Jesus the Messiah was predicted by the writings of the major and minor prophets, and the nature of the Messiah as revealed in the stories of the called and chosen people. In that I am not talking about the presumptions that were made about the nature and intentions of the Divine, but what actually transpired between the Lord God and humanity. Read carefully where Paul says “live in harmony with one another”. Many of the actions that were undertaken by the Israelites did not seem to promote harmony. I concede the consideration of that is a larger topic that I am not looking at taking up here. The point I want to emphasis is one voice glorifying the God and [Parent] of our Lord Jesus Christ.

“Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.” (Verse 7)

A refrain that is often heard is “Peace on earth and goodwill to all people” to slightly paraphrase for gender inclusivity. But that is the whole point, beloved reader, to make all people feel welcome! Listen to Paul!

“For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the circumcised on behalf of the truth of God in order that he might confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written, “Therefore I will confess you among the Gentiles, and sing praises to your name”; and again he says, “Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people”; and again, “Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles, and let all the peoples praise him”; and again Isaiah says, “The root of Jesse shall come, the one who rises to rule the Gentiles; in him the Gentiles shall hope.” (Verses 8 – 12)

One may ask, who are the “circumcised” and who are the “Gentiles”. Paul still has a shade of “them” and “us”. Strictly speaking to Paul, WE are the Gentiles. Because we are not the first people that Yahweh called out. But as believers in Jesus Christ and beneficiaries of the Lord God’s outreach through the Messiah, we are the “circumcised.” And if we are both, beloved reader, how can we deny relationship with others. Either they are already within the family of God, or the Divine is attempting to reach out to them through us! So I say to you, beloved reader, which ever group you may be a part of . . . .

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Verse 13)

Selah and Shalom!

[P.S. This might be a good time to announce that as of November 26th I have taken up the invitation to post on Theology Corner. In the coming weeks I will say more about the transition to posting exclusively (not that I mean to leave anyone beyond or left out) on Theology Corner. Look for cues and clues to switch over to that new site.)

Season After Pentecost (Proper 12[17]) – The Epistle Passage: Considering the pressure, expectations and importance of “knowing” the Divine

It is said, and I believe, that even the powers of darkness (or if you prefer capitalized “the Powers of Darkness) know the Divine – know that the Divine is about and what the Divine intends to have happen by the end of all days. Knowing who the Divine is does not mean, however, following the guidance, instruction, and inspiration of the Divine. THAT takes a great deal of work and commitment. And a heart, soul, and spirit that makes way and space for the Divine.

“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name.” (Ephesians 3:14 – 15)

Paul, when he was Saul thought he knew the Divine, knew Adonay and Yahweh; and thought he was being faithful when he set out to destroy the heretical believers who professed faith in Jesus as the Christ. Not just knew of him, knew his story, but believed the story that the disciples were preaching. He was persuaded towards a different belief and faith – one that included God/Yahweh, Jesus the Christ and the Holy Spirit.

“I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. (Verses 16 – 19)

And if Paul is praying to the Divine that his readers and audience goes beyond simply knowing about to comprehending, then it must be vital. More vital than anything else that Paul knows of.

Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” (Verses 20 – 21)

Those who know of the Divine, in all of the Divine’s aspects but do not follow nor act according to the precepts as they have been laid down over the generation and centuries risk much. Risk everything, in fact. We cannot, however, say for others how that devotion and following should be lived out. We can only determine for ourselves what we need to do, and then seek out like-minded individuals in order to support each other. And pray for one another. As Paul prayed. Selah!

Another peek into my life

[This post actually came a few weeks before I got my new job in 2017]

I had an interesting experience today. Because my bank charges fees if you do not have activity on your account, I had to close my account. I have been with them for 10 years, so it was a real sad parting of the ways. The banker was very nice and understanding, and wished me well.
I got to thinking as I was driving home – he must have felt relief that HE had a good and stable job after hearing my story of being without a job and income. And, he must have felt good giving me encouragement and support during a difficult time in my life. I admit, that may sound strange.
My point is this – we never know when the actions in our lives will give other people an opportunity to extend kindness and care to us. Encouragement does good for both the supporter and the one being supported. While none of us want to be the “but for the grace of God, there go I” person, it sometimes a role we find ourselves filling. And I will admit, in my feeling down for myself, it heartened me a little (once I could accept that role) to know that I offered someone else a chance to feel good about themselves.
Even when we feel there is nothing good we can do, or that no good will come out of a situation, we may be surprised. And it is those surprise situations that may be the very thing that gets us through the hard times. I hope and pray that there will be things along your path that help you along. Share them here, or just come here to be encouraged and supported wherever you are in life. Shalom!

The next installment

[I was really trying to put forth a good effort, but I was starting to feel the uphill battle of managing so much]

I am trying to post something here every few days. I know getting a Facebook page started and having people come to check it out takes patience and time. Time I have; it is patience that I need to work on. But that is probably true for a lite of people. And being patient is one of the things that is helped along by encouragement. “Be patient” people tell you. “Things will work out.” And while that is helpful on the face of it, that sort of assurance does not always go the distance when the “working out” of things is taking a while. Because there you are, back again, having your patience be stretched too taut.
So rather than giving you all sorts of adages, I am simply affirming that I know things can be hard. And I promise you that I am right in the trenches along with others who are struggling. But we are not alone, and I need to remind myself of that. And I hope I have reminded you too! Shalom!

Season After Pentecost (Proper 5 [10]) – The Psalm Passage: Faith to give thanks

One of the Facebook groups I am a part of posted the question of what we are thankful for. Of course there were a variety of answers posted from then mild and humorous to the serious and touching. What one is thankful for various from day to day, and situation to situation. It is fine and good to be thankful for the large and overarching things – family and loved ones – and the small and minor things – getting a parking spot and having a good meal. As believers and followers of the Divine, we can be thankful for the Divine’s presence in our lives and in the lives of others. The psalmist excels at giving things for that.

“I give you thanks, O LORD, with my whole heart; before the gods I sing your praise; I bow down toward your holy temple and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness; for you have exalted your name and your word above everything.” (Psalms 138:1 – 2)

Because it was and is obvious to give thanks for the large things, in response to the question posted I gave thanks for a small thing. The reason, for me, in giving thanks for a small thing was because the large things – that is the most important things in my life – are things that I know will be there and I can count on them. Of course I am thankful for them. But I have assurance that they will be there. The small things, on the other hand, may ebb and flow with time and circumstance so I gave thanks for them as they happen.

“On the day I called, you answered me, you increased my strength of soul.” (Verse 3)

When a believer calls on the Lord God, the assumption is that the Lord God will answer. The answer may not be immediate nor what one expects. But we can have faith that Lord God will answer. So it may not be the answer to prayer and petition that we are thankful for as much as that we are heard by our Lord God.

“All the kings of the earth shall praise you, O LORD, for they have heard the words of your mouth.
They shall sing of the ways of the LORD, for great is the glory of the LORD.
For though the LORD is high, he regards the lowly; but the haughty he perceives from far away.” (Verses 4 – 6)

When I first read through Psalm 138, it was verse 3 that resonated within me most. And I guess for me, it is the verse that this psalm hinges on. It is why I can have faith that the large important things in my life – which really aren’t “things” – will be there for me. It is why I give thanks for small things, because they help me along my way. The granting of the small blessings helps me keep my courage up to face difficult issues in my life. And I give thanks for that as well.

“Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve me against the wrath of my enemies; you stretch out your hand, and your right hand delivers me. The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O LORD, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of your hands.” (Verses 7 – 8)

“ Do not forsake the work of your hands” . . . what I take that to mean is “Do not forsake creation and your called and chosen people . . . Do not forsake those who call on the Lord God.” I do not think the Lord God does, beloved reader. And that is why we can have the faith to give thanks for all things, because the Divine is with us. Selah!

Third Sunday of Lent: The Psalm Passage – Psalm 19: As envisioned through the lens of nature

“The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.
Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night declares knowledge.
There is no speech, nor are there words; their voice is not heard; yet their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In the heavens he has set a tent for the sun, which comes out like a bridegroom from his wedding canopy, and like a strong man runs its course with joy.”

 

“Its rising is from the end of the heavens, and its circuit to the end of them; and nothing is hid from its heat.”

 

 

‘The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the decrees of the LORD are sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is clear, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the LORD is pure, enduring forever; the ordinances of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.”

 

More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey, and drippings of the honeycomb. Moreover by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.”

 

 

But who can detect their errors? Clear me from hidden faults. Keep back your servant also from the insolent; do not let them have dominion over me. Then I shall be blameless, and innocent of great transgression.”

 

 

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.”