I am now 66 years old and have the privilege of looking back on time, not just looking forward. As I read the scripture for today it brought a strange yet wonderful sense of peace. When I was younger I looked at these verses as “thou shalt’s”. They conveyed a sense of legalism. Today they convey a sense of grace.
• Leviticus 19:1-2, 9-18 •
• Psalm 119:33-40 •
• 1 Corinthians 3:10-11, 16-23 •
• Matthew 5:38-48
Life is made up of a series of options. If one choice is made it leads to another.
Over the years the concept of holiness often encouraged an unpretentious piety. It was focused on prayer and the acts of repentance. Here however Moses words are highlighted differently. Do you want to be holy, then create a generous attitude. Make sure you allow the fruits of your labor to touch the lives of others.
Do not steal, do not lie, do not rip your neighbor off, do your best to be fair, do not slander others. Moses goes on with admonitions that do seem heavy but now that I am older I see them as words of wisdom not words of heavy handedness.
The Psalmist sets this out even stronger as the way to holiness is revealed in a learning process. Teach me, give me understanding, lead me, turn my heart, my eyes, confirm me, all become words indicating holiness is a learning process. It is a way of life.
The Apostle puts all this into perspective. Our lives are like structure being added to a massive building, indeed, the revealed temple of God. The foundation is Jesus Christ. He has not only modeled the building process, he embodied the walk of a carpenter. This building is not just any building it is the sanctuary of the very Spirit of God.
I can’t help but smile as I think of story after story about the little things in life, things that mattered not just to me but to others.
Along the way there were moments when the task seemed laborious but Jesus speaks to this and clearly defines an alternative. Go the second mile, love your enemy, perfection is clearly understood in an alternative lifestyle.
As I read what is being written here tears come to my eyes. I think of the conflict going on in my homeland. Political powers are failing to recognize how a life style of greed centeredness, securing borders with “legal” forms of dominance and control have given permission to define holiness as “wholiness”, simply the desire to have it all.
Looking back, it is easy to see the “glass cathedral” style of glitz and humility has failed our society. It has not been uncommon to see the bully simply out bullied. Someone bigger and more treacherous seemed to always be around the corner. The lifestyle advocated in the text is clearly an alternative.
My tears are turned to a smile as I think about those who have chosen the alternative way. Recently I have had the joy of reading peoples stories who have seen their purposes turn around. In the midst of battling devastating illness, others battling the corporate structures, some just saying I want something different. There is a new sense of peace and direction being defined as the way to live.
As you take time to reflect on how following these admonitions has brought a surprising joy to mind enjoy the simple sound of the piano sound of the London Piano Man.
A morning prayer: A Prayer by Walter Rauschenbusch
Everyday I read of extremely painful situations in other people’s lives. (we have over 7000 members in our Facebook group concerning Sarcoidosis.)
For about two months I was celebrating one of my longest “almost pain free” periods.
Then four days ago happened. I could barely stand erect, my body was tearing away at itself. Then just as quickly as it came the pain disappeared. Yesterday the pain came back. This is the see-saw existence of a long term illness. In the case of sarcoidosis one day the pain and problems may be in one place and a different part of the body the next time.
What is the cause of all this pain?
Please take time to read the following scriptures:
• Deuteronomy 30:15-20 or Sirach 15:15-20 •
• Psalm 119:1-8 •
• 1 Corinthians 3:1-9 •
• Matthew 5:21-37
At this time, seeing I was on line a friend sent me this.
A group called VERITAS singing the Doxology.
What is the cause of all this pain?
The book of Deuteronomy clearly recognizes a life of prosperity, death and adversity. Does a long term illness fall under the category of adversity?
What is the cause of all this pain?
The Biblical text puts before us words that encourage us to walk in the Lord’s way.
Veritas-The Lord’s Prayer
The Psalmist goes so far as to say we will experience a way of happiness for walking with the Lord, walking in the law, walking in the precepts, being stedfast in the statutes, being fixed on the commandments, and learning the ordinances.
Veritas-Dare You to Move
The Apostle hits closer to home when he challenges his readers to take a mature look at what is happening, not just in one’s own life, but also in the life of those in our community.
What is the cause of all this pain?
Jesus digs deeper then just actions. Jesus goes to the heart of the matter and asks us to look at the soul of life itself.
Daily I am bombarded by writers who talk about pain and illness. Solutions for this pain are found as the causes of pain are somehow discussed in all the following: our diet, runaway chemical additives in our food, the lack of accountability in the way we market health, the failure to recognize how political the growing and manufacturing of food has become, then the creation of bigger and more scientific medical systems have become as a way to treat our bodies when all the other miracle solutions fail us.
The Apostle acknowledges the power struggles, the hidden attitudes of greed for acknowledgement and the lack of willingness to simply recognize we are “of God”.
Now how did I get all the way from “pain” to where these words are? My own walk has become a bit of a commentary in all of this. I have lived with criticism, with judgements for the choices I have made. Some of my decisions have been wrong, they have resulted in some pretty “junky” stuff to happen. Some of my decisions have been right, they have resulted in some pretty “junky” stuff to happen. What I have learned and am learning is pain has a role in my life. Without it I would not be here writing this.
Throughout these words I was drawn back to the music my friend shared with me. The focus was drawn away from me to God. Each of the pieces of music brought recognition to God and the resulting life as a part of walking in God’s purposes. Each time I understood the power of pain to be lesser and lesser.
Veritas-Angus Dei Medley
Do you remember the day John Lennon said the Beatles were more popular then Jesus Christ. It was 50 years ago, March 4, 1966. I remember the statement. Lennon then went on to clarify how the statement was being used wrongly. In the attempt to nullify the words they strangely became even more visible.
I was in Costco the other day. The isles were full of snacks. Two women were talking. Their carts were full of multiple kinds of items to be devoured at the upcoming Superbowl party. One woman said we will be having about 50 people over for the game. Her next statement, I wish we could fill the house like this for our Bible study. Some have said that football has become America’s religion.
Today is Super Sunday. The New England Patriots will take on The Atlanta Falcons. This game will be broadcast in 223 countries around the world.
What is your religion about?
Please read the following Scriptures:
• Isaiah 58:1-9a (9b-12) •
• Psalm 112:1-9 (10) •
• 1 Corinthians 2:1-12 (13-16) •
• Matthew 5:13-20
What is your religion about?
Isaiah cuts to the chase. He puts all other words aside as he talks about mixing religious acts with secularism. He says this process ultimately yields a sense of meaningless rhetoric. He, that is Isaiah does not mince words. Then, then, then when one’s religion loosens the bond of oppression, cares about the hungry, the homeless, the naked, then your light shall break forth like the dawn he says. The question, “what is your religion about?” is answered in one fell swoop as his diatribe builds toward a crescendo of hope. Religion does not live in isolation to the world around it.
The Psalmist catches this euphoria. Praise the Lord. Happy are those who fear the Lord, who delight in the commandments. There is a sense of excitement about those who walk in righteousness. Strangely however, this positive behavior, these good works also create a negative backlash. Both those who claim to be religious and those who are self seekers try to say life is about something else. The nay sayers would say, you don’t get it. You have really missed the boat. Enter, President Trump. What I did to gain my wealth was totally legal. It may not have been right, but it was legal! Is this what Isaiah and the Psalmist are saying. There is something more then legal that needs to happen so religion can be lived with a spirit of celebration?
As I began reading the words of the Apostle in 1 Corinthians 2. He says he didn’t come with words of wisdom. He came merely to find the life of Jesus being lived out in the community of believers. Paul talks about a kind of secret knowledge and then as if to contradict himself he implies there is nothing secret about it at all. It is a knowledge that informs a life style, a spiritual lifestyle. This knowledge points to being gifted. This gift produces a life of power to be who we were intended to be. It is demonstrated by the life of Jesus being lived in the life of a believer. When the question about religion is raised there seems to be something about prayer that lifts us above the activity of personal acquisition or personal ratings in life. Indeed, if there is anything secret, it is our sense of being that the believer understands what “pure” religion is about. There will be nothing secret about doing acts of justice, acts of wisdom, acts of rightness. These acts will reveal the secret of inner motivation.
My mind drifts to a story told by a preacher many years ago. He said he was at home and he heard voices in the kitchen. When he called out the voices stopped. He walked into the kitchen and did not see anyone. He left the kitchen. As he did the voices began again. He turned, went back into the kitchen. He looked everywhere. All he saw was a pot simmering on the stove. A stew was beginning to smell very good. The water was gently bubbling around the potatoes. The carrots and other vegetables were darkening in color awaiting the perfect drop of spice to bring out their flavor. He walked back out of the room. He then stopped and began to listen. Quietly he stood, hidden out of sight. Then it happened. Two grains of salt were deeply involved in an argument. The first spoke clearly. I am not going in there. The second said, but that is our purpose. We are salt. We are to enhance the flavor of the stew. The first grain of salt, referring to the salt shaker the two of them were in said look, we have this beautiful glass house, we have a beautiful silver dome, why can’t it be enough? We are the center of attention. Everyone coming into the kitchen will see us. If we go in that stew we will be lost. The other grain of salt said, somehow I think that might be what we should be about. Our destination, our destiny is not about living in a glass house, it is about adding flavor, adding a special presence into our world.
This story, as simplistic as it is, reflects the words of Jesus as quoted by Matthew. We are the salt of the earth.
Perhaps Matthew in his own way is asking the question. What is religion about?
Today is Super Bowl Sunday, the non football enthusiasts may be home listening to some old music, who knows maybe John Lennon will be revived. Perhaps you will be attending the Super Bowl party at your church, (primarily of course, just to catch the Super Bowl commercials.) Today will be over. Tomorrow is around the corner. The question will still need answering. What is your religion about?
Lord perhaps this may be the wrong question. Perhaps it is more about bringing your presence into the lives of those around us instead of looking for ways to just be religious.
My mind rushes with thoughts of all the worlds needing to be saved. My mind swirls in confusion as so many run by crying out an invitation to go here, to go there, to show your love. I only hope that someone from over there will come here.
Lord we are a people with genuine hope, with genuine care. But why is there so much fear that we may be missing the boat?
Lord, today I place these words into the airwaves, guide them I pray. Use them to bring meaning and direction to someone not only asking the question about religion but who really wants to know something more personal, something more about them self. Enrich the world because one more person looks less at religion and sees it is acceptable to do the works of religion.
All around us people talk about spirituality as if spirit can be separate from the actions of spirituality. Lord I commit the readers of these words to you. May our religion bring a spiritual depth that causes others to experience you and your presence overflowing into lives of others. I pray this in the name of the one who so perfectly revealed you to us. I pray in Jesus name Amen.
A musical answer to the question, What is religion about?
Ladysmith Black Mambas Swing Low Sweet Chariot https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IEKXt2EfyLQ
They’ll Know we are Christians by our Love
In Christ Alone