Season After Pentecost (Proper 29[34]) – The Psalm Passage: Time to stop reflecting and start to act

O LORD, remember in David’s favor all the hardships he endured; how he swore to the LORD and vowed to the Mighty One of Jacob, “I will not enter my house or get into my bed; I will not give sleep to my eyes or slumber to my eyelids, until I find a place for the LORD, a dwelling place for the Mighty One of Jacob.” We heard of it in Ephrathah; we found it in the fields of Jaar. “Let us go to his dwelling place; let us worship at his footstool.” (Psalm 1 – 7)

King David had, when he first had secured the throne, expressed the desire to build a house for the Ark of the Covenant and for the Lord God Yahweh to reside it. It was not to be, but King David desired it greatly. King David did not just muse upon it or imagine how it might have been. He gathered treasures and building materials (if the commentators are to be believed) and made plans. His son King Solomon actually completed the Temple but it was David who first sparked the idea and passed its importance down to his son.

Rise up, O LORD, and go to your resting place, you and the ark of your might. Let your priests be clothed with righteousness, and let your faithful shout for joy. For your servant David’s sake do not turn away the face of your anointed one.
The LORD swore to David a sure oath from which he will not turn back: “One of the sons of your body I will set on your throne. If your sons keep my covenant and my decrees that I shall teach them, their sons also, forevermore, shall sit on your throne.” (Verses 8 – 12)

There comes a time to set aside wishing, thinking, and pondering; there comes a time to take action. I realized, beloved reader, looking back on the past two weeks that I have continued the theme of pondering inadvertently. In one week’s time I wrote to weeks’ worth of commentary so that I would have a week free to tend to other matters. One week flowed into the next in my thinking and I did not insert a break into my considerations of the passages. That is sometimes how it is when we think, muse, and ponder. Time passes by and we do not take action. Again if the commentators are to be believed, David spent much of his kingship planning out a “House for the Lord”, what building materials there should be and how it would be furnished. It would explain how early in his kingship that Solomon was able to build the temple if his father had done the planning work and accumulating of materials. Solomon was a thinker and a philosopher. His father King David was a doer. In any project it is good to have both. And both types of leadership, if done under the direction and guidance of the Lord, are acceptable to the Divine.

“For the LORD has chosen Zion; he has desired it for his habitation: “This is my resting place forever; here I will reside, for I have desired it. I will abundantly bless its provisions; I will satisfy its poor with bread. Its priests I will clothe with salvation, and its faithful will shout for joy. There I will cause a horn to sprout up for David; I have prepared a lamp for my anointed one. His enemies I will clothe with disgrace, but on him, his crown will gleam.” (Verses 13 – 18)

Having completed this last commentary and scheduled it to appear at its proper time, I will be resting for a week and completing other tasks that need to be done. My plan is to write something current of Thanksgiving, as a summary and celebration if my work and plans for the coming week (real time) are seen to fruition. It is my hope and prayer that the ponderings I have done in the past few weeks and the actions I will take in the coming week will result in the outcome I desire. I wish and pray for the same thing for you beloved reader. Shalom and Selah!

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Season After Pentecost (Proper 29[34]) – The Gospel Passage: Jesus invites Pilate to reflect

Then Pilate entered the headquarters again, summoned Jesus, and asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?” Pilate replied, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me. What have you done?” (John 18:33 – 35)

I was curious about verse 35 and Pilate’s question. Some commentators say the Pilate is insulted by the question, that anyone would think he is a “slave Jew.” Other commentators believe he is asserting his independence from Jewish thinking and influence, and he will judge the matter without prejudice or influence. In either case, Jesus’ question prompts Pilate to look himself and his involvement in the proceedings.

“Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.” Pilate asked him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.” (Verses 36 – 37)

Jesus invites Pilate to further reflect on what makes a king, and what power does a king command. And how long or short a king might be in power based on the circumstances. Okay, so admittedly one can interpret and imbue at great deal into Pilate’s and Jesus’ statements, questions, and answers. Maybe Pilate is not a thinker or philosopher. Maybe he is just a politician looking to solve problems and up-rises. And if Pilate does not take up Jesus’ invitation to reflect that does not mean we should not.

What is the nature of power? How do you wield it with integrity and honor? How long should power last? Can you make it last? When should power give way to submission? More pondering – what is the nature of truth? Is there different types of truth? Is truth relative? How does power and truth connect and interact? The questions, reflections, and ponderings could go on. That is one of the reasons I like pondering – taking a question or situation and looking at it from all sides and angles. I would invite you, beloved reader, to ponder will and let truths arise from sincere pondering. Because, beloved reader, it is after pondering truths that the nature of true and lasting power can come. Selah!

Season After Pentecost Thanksgiving Day 2018: The Old Testament, Gospel & Psalm Passages – Raising up thanksgiving to the Divine

Do not fear, O soil; be glad and rejoice, for the LORD has done great things!” (Joel 2:21)

I am very late in writing this commentary posting. And writing it very late at night/early morning. My second round of pies are in the oven and I am waiting for them to be done. So while I wait, I thought I would sit down and collect my thoughts. They are very scattered. I might mention, as I hinted above, I writing in “real time” which means whenever I get this written, it will be posted. No neat and tidy timing of 30 minutes past a certain hour. I might also add, I am exhausted.

As I thought about writing this, one thought came back to my mind over and over – all the things I have to be thankful for. And the things I am not thankful for. Actually, the two are quite similar.

“Do not fear, you animals of the field, for the pastures of the wilderness are green; the tree bears its fruit, the fig tree and vine give their full yield. O children of Zion, be glad and rejoice in the LORD your God; for he has given the early rain for your vindication, he has poured down for you abundant rain, the early and the later rain, as before. The threshing floors shall be full of grain, the vats shall overflow with wine and oil. “ (Verses 22 – 24)

Last year around this time I had gotten word I had been hired for a job. It was a long nine months of job searching. While I did not start until after Thanksgiving, the days was breathed in relief that soon I would start working ago and be able to afford to buy the necessities of life. This year I was not dependent on the benevolence of anyone (except the Divine) for buying the essentials of the Thanksgiving meal, and a few extras!

“I will repay you for the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter, my great army, which I sent against you.” (Verse 25)

But it also means I am working again, and wearing myself out. Last year the Thanksgiving preparations were made with plenty of time and I got to bed early. This year I am up late and was already worn out by the time I started. I guess you have to “suffer” for some blessings!

“You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, and praise the name of the LORD your God, who has dealt wondrously with you. And my people shall never again be put to shame. You shall know that I am in the midst of Israel, and that I, the LORD, am your God and there is no other. And my people shall never again be put to shame.”

But I really cannot complain much, or more precisely should not. I really do like my job and the people I work with. In the midst of the struggle of daily work and long work weeks, it is good to have a job!

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?” ( Matthew 6:25 – 27)

The other good/bad element of my life is my health. Yes, I was healthy enough to make the delicious pies for Thanksgiving. And will be healthy enough to join my family around the table. But my health has also become a worry. I had let a few hints drop in the past weeks that my health has had another set back but I have not been forthright about what is going on. Now that plans are set in motion, I am ready to say more. Beloved reader, I have a rare form of skin cancer.

I had written a week of posts well in advance so I would have the time to travel to learn the treatment options. It turns out the best treatment option is here in the city I live in. I will be starting radiation treatment in the next few weeks. I have learned quite a bit about the process and therapy, but still there are some unknowns. Chief among them (at least for me) is whether the radiation treatment will work. In a very short time my list of worries shifted dramatically. And while I am thankful that my health has been relatively stable up to this point, I am becoming aware of a whole other level of worry about my health. And as is so often the case, other worries same to find when placed side by side with this new development.

“And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you–you of little faith? Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Verses 28 -33)

I am not ruling out that this may just be a brief chapter in my health history. I am very ready to believe that the therapy will completely cure me and that there will be no recurrence or lasting ill effects. My faith is not shaken, nor do I doubt the goodness of the Divine.

“When the LORD restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream.
Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy; then it was said among the nations, “The LORD has done great things for them.”
The LORD has done great things for us, and we rejoiced.
Restore our fortunes, O LORD, like the watercourses in the Negeb.

May those who sow in tears reap with shouts of joy.
Those who go out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, carrying their sheaves.” (Psalm 126)

I have always believed that what comes my way prepares me for what tasks, purpose, and mission the Divine has for me. Great blessings may come from this time. And I am prepared to see the good, embrace the struggles, and keep my faith firm. While I come to this Thanksgiving season of 2018 with a whole different set of circumstances than last year, I still give thanks for what I have received, and I give thanks the endurance and strength to see my way through the challenges before me.

May this Thanksgiving season find you, beloved reader, in the most favorable of circumstances. And if not, may the Divine be with you day by day as your journey through what is before you. Selah!

Season After Pentecost (Proper 29[34]) – The Epistle Passage: The Writer of the Book of Revelation reflects

Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To him who loves us and freed us from our sins by his blood, and made us to be a kingdom, priests serving his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.(Revelation 1:4b – 6)

“To him who” – it is a strange little phrase. It might seem out of place, until one considers that it might just be a toast to the Divine! Not so out of place when you remember that the writer of the book of Revelation (John he calls himself) visualized the kingdom and the city of Jerusalem as a bride come down to be united with her bridegroom. Maybe thinking along those lines, a toast is not so out of place. And toasts at weddings are often compiled recollection of the bride or the groom, and are followed by a sort of blessing or celebration of that person and the event. Keeping that in mind, the phrase “to him who” is quite appropriate. Paul uses that phrase in his prayers, and it mostly usually means the Divine that Paul prayed to.

“Look! He is coming with the clouds; every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and on his account all the tribes of the earth will wail. So it is to be. Amen. “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” (Verses 7 – 8)

Everything from A to Z. That is what the Greek (language) is telling us. The Divine is all things, or in all things. And concerned with all things. I had framed this commentary as the writer of Revelation reflecting on the end times, and many predictions of the future take their context and details from Revelation. But suppose we would just think of the book as the writer reflecting on issues of faith and they should be lived out, and the consequences of that. After all, John has specific messages for seven of the churches in existence at the time of his writing this book.

However, it has not always been helpful or fruitful to try to apply those messages to our modern times. On the other hand, there is a consistency of human nature throughout the history of humanity. Maybe some messages could be passed from that generation to this one.

I have at times had an uneasy relationship with the book of Revelation. And so for me, it is helpful to think of this book of the bible that way. Perhaps, beloved reader, that would be helpful for you too. May you reflect, beloved readers, and may your reflections lead to greater understandings and a deep faith. Selah!

Season After Pentecost (Proper 29[34]) – The Old Testament Passage: King David reflects

I had an interesting conversation with my daughter the evening I sat down to write this; I am actually writing it several weeks ahead. This week is the week of Thanksgiving and we were talking about how we were going to handle Thanksgiving this year in light of the possibility that I would not be “up to” making much. You see, last week I had two surgeries – on Nov 13th & 15th. And I had not idea how much recovery time I would need, and if I was capable of “pulling off” a Thanksgiving meal. In the same vein I thought, during the week of surgery how capable am I going to be in writing my commentaries? Just as I am planning ahead for Thanksgiving, so should I plan ahead in writing. So, with that in mind I looked at the Old Testament passage, since that is a by tradition the passage I start with each week.

“Now these are the last words of David: The oracle of David, son of Jesse, the oracle of the man whom God exalted, the anointed of the God of Jacob, the favorite of the Strong One of Israel:
The spirit of the LORD speaks through me, his word is upon my tongue. The God of Israel has spoken, the Rock of Israel has said to me: One who rules over people justly, ruling in the fear of God, is like the light of morning, like the sun rising on a cloudless morning, gleaming from the rain on the grassy land.”(2 Samuel 23:1 – 4)

We are told by the writer of II Samuel that these are the final thoughts of David as he looks back over his reign. Not so much the end of his reign when sadness and tragedy had marked his life but more as a summary of what he hoped to and did accomplish. These are not so much words from King David as a personal reflection but rather inspired what David has seen happen as a result of his efforts under/with God’s support. It is, in short, a shiny reflection on the good stuff.

“Is not my house like this with God? For he has made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and secure. Will he not cause to prosper all my help and my desire?” (Verse 5)

Above, beloved reader, you read that correctly. Some time back (and even further back from you are reading this) I talked about my new diagnosis. It is because of that I am having two surgeries just one day apart. And I am admittedly (at this writing) quite concerned. Of course, by the time you read this I will have already had the surgery and will be (very hopefully) recovering. So . . . . well . . . . I would like to claim David’s words for my self. The assurance and confidence that David, I would like that. The security and knowledge that God will keep me and under take for me – I would like that. The final two verses, however, I will leave to King David.

“But the godless are all like thorns that are thrown away; for they cannot be picked up with the hand;
to touch them one uses an iron bar or the shaft of a spear. And they are entirely consumed in fire on the spot.” (Verses 6 – 7)

In David’s time those who did not follow Yahweh were outside of any grace and blessing. Consequently what happened to them, they deserved. Interestingly, the same perspective was held for those who did at one time follow Yahweh but apparently “fell” away. I am reminded of the kings that came after David, and the endless periods of slavery and captivity that the Israelites and Judahites suffered. It is good, in a sense, that King David did not know what befell his line between his death and the coming of the Messiah.

May you, beloved reader, now the same sort of contentment and prosperity that David had for most of his life. Selah!

Season After Pentecost (Proper 28[33]) – The Psalm Passage: Reflecting on the psalm and the protection of the Divine

Protect me, O God, for in you I take refuge.” (Psalm 16:1)

This a good start for the companion piece to the predictions in the book of Daniel. Having read the predictions in the book of Daniel, I think I would ask for protection too!

“I say to the LORD, “You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.” As for the holy ones in the land, they are the noble, in whom is all my delight.” (Verses 2 – 3)

As this passage continues, the clarity of the passage and the message that the psalmist wants to give becomes garbled and confusing – not because I say so, beloved reader, but because the big name commentators identify it as so. It seems like a simple little passage. The psalmist declares that the Divine is his refuge and has stated it publicly. Apart from the Divine the psalmist has little to commend or recommend of himself. The holy, however, he looks up to and assumes that the Divine, the Lord God has lead and guided them to a good life.

“Those who choose another god multiply their sorrows; their drink offerings of blood I will not pour out or take their names upon my lips. The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; I have a goodly heritage. “ (Verses 4 – 6)

The passage becomes clearer as it goes on. Those who do not follow the Divine, the Lord God are going to have a tough time. I (meaning the psalmist) am not going to follow their example nor value what they do. I (meaning again the psalmist) chose the Lord God, and it has resulted in good things. This reflects back on the psalmist declaring that apart from the Lord God nothing is worthwhile.

“I bless the LORD who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me. I keep the LORD always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved. Therefore my heart is glad, and my soul rejoices; my body also rests secure. For you do not give me up to Sheol, or let your faithful one see the Pit. You show me the path of life. In your presence there is fullness of joy; in your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” (Verses 7 – 11)

The protection that the psalmist has found is not so much because the Lord God has shielded him from misfortune etc, but because he (the psalmist) has made good choices based on the laws and tenets of the faith the psalmist espouses and follows. If we think of King David as the psalmist we can see that when David followed the Lord God, good and pleasant things happened. When he strayed (as he did) that is when things became not so well with him. The same could be said of Daniel in Babylon. He stayed the course of faith in the Lord despite temptation and persecution for his faith.

What about us beloved reader? Where have the lines fallen for us – for you and for me?

Do we feel protected and close to the Lord God, enclosed in the Divine’s Right Hand? The psalmist is telling us it is by making good, wise, and holy/Godly decisions that we feel this protection.

There are several things this philosophy and belief does not take into account, not the least of which is the acts of the unholy against us. I am sure you can think of other things, beloved reader, that mar the feeling of protection. Quite honestly, I think the psalmist is being a little optimistic. What is true, however, is that the things – traits and issues – that supersede this life on earth are protected for us and within us by the Divine Lord God. And maybe that is what the psalmist is meaning.

I do hope and prayer, beloved reader, that you are safe and protected in the Lord God; and that those near and dear to you are protected also. And may you find a firm and immovable refuge in the Divine Lord God. Selah!

Season After Pentecost (Proper 28[33]) – The Gospel Passage: Reflecting on the prediction Jesus Christ makes

As he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what large stones and what large buildings! Then Jesus asked him, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.”(Mark 13:1 – 2)

When I was in my early teens my parents and I went to visit a old large Catholic church. My mother, having been raised in a strong Anabaptist tradition, was not over impressed. I, however, was entranced. I just could not get enough of it. If someone had said to me that great church will be rumble with not one building stone left on top of another, I probably would not have believed it. Large sturdy buildings seem to be resistant to time and calamity. But we know that powerful forces can level a building. In Jesus’ time, however, that may not have been something that could imagined. And if it did, than it must be because a great disaster had befallen the city and the people in it.

“When he was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John, and Andrew asked him privately, “Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign that all these things are about to be accomplished?” (Verses 3 – 4)

I am not sure why the disciples thought there would signs of the coming event. Our minds are more likely to assume that it is a natural disaster that many not have any warnings. Jesus’ disciples, it seems, were more likely to see it as an apocalypse with signs and portents. Jesus’ answer is along those lines also.

“Then Jesus began to say to them, “Beware that no one leads you astray. Many will come in my name and say, ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray. When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed; this must take place, but the end is still to come. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. This is but the beginning of the birthpangs.” (Verses 5 – 8)

Jesus called them birth pangs – or more precisely the writer/speaker of the gospel of Mark called them such. In fact the transcriber of the gospel of Mark puts a spin on this that makes it sound like the end times. And that Jesus’ disciples would see it coming. But we are at 2000 years beyond this prediction. And rumors of war, kingdom fighting kingdom/ nation fighting nation, earthquakes, and famines have come and gone 100 times over at least. And here we are, still churning along.

Now, there are two choices we can make. We can either adopt the attitude that this prediction has not strength or plausibility to it. Or we can be concerned that as bad as things have been over the last 2000, it is going to get much worse. And the 2000 years of all sorts of mayhem, disaster, and suffering is only a warm up! Kind of sobering when you take it seriously. I for one am going to hold on tight to my faith, and NOT pin my hopes to any earthly structure or formation! Shalom!