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The Glory of God and the Alien

Devotional/Discussion Thought of the Day:

17 lYou shall not deprive the resident alien or the orphan of justice, nor take the clothing of a widow as pledge. 18 For, remember, you were slaves in Egypt, and the LORD, your God, redeemed you from there; that is why I command you to do this. Dt 24:17–18 NABRE

43 yThe resident aliens among you will rise above you higher and higher, while you sink lower and lower. 44 They will lend to you, not you to them. They will become the head, you the tail. Dt 28:43–44 NABRE

This song sets a standard; it helps us understand what Christmas is all about. It contains the key word, which, in our time especially, commands people’s interest more than just about anything else: peace. The biblical term shalom, which is usually so translated, implies much more than the absence of armed conflict; it means the right order of human affairs, well-being—a world where trust and friendship prevail, where neither fear nor want, nor treachery nor dishonesty is found. The song of the angels first lays down a precondition, without which there can be no lasting peace: God’s glory. This is the message of peace at Bethlehem: peace among men results from God’s glory  (1)

In my daily devotions, I am presently reading four very different things.  Scripture, on a yearly reading plan, two doctrinal works, and this devotional quoted in green, taken from the writings of Pope Benedict, but done while he was a cardinal.

Often I look to see the connection between the works, often between the two theological works. Today I knew there was a connection between what is quoted above from scripture and Pope Benedict, but it takes some thought to see it.  It takes prayer, and meditation on the blessings of God in our sacraments to see it come to reality.

And it is necessary today.  Very necessary among the people of God that is the Church.

You see, we want the shalom, the peace of God which Benedict XVI writes so powerfully about.  We are tired of living in broken and anxiety laden lives.  We want peace, but like so many other things, we are only considering peace for ourselves.   Real peace, though, the kind of peace that is found in dwelling in the glory of God, is communal. It is more than the absence of conflict, more than compromise so we can get along.

Peace, serenity, harmony is what we are talking about, and as I said, it is impossible through human manipulation or negotiation.  It can only happen when we are aware of the work of God, reconciling us to Himself.  When He is present. When His glory overwhelms us enough that He can heal us.

So what does this have to do with the alien in our midst?  (not to mention the widow and the orphan)

Simple, they are part of the peace.  Our loving, benevolent actions toward them, which are commanded by scripture, are well thought out.  They are neither blind charity, nor ignoring the needs of those who desperately have them.  Those who need a new life, a new place to live, who need to be delivered from the bondage they lived in, just as we were, or, at least, our ancestors were.

There is the connection, the one we don’t want to make.  These people that are scorned mocked, who often invest all they have in coming into our presence are looking for the peace, the shalom that can only come from being in the presence of God. The very peaceful, glorious presence we desire for ourselves.  The very peace-filled, glorious presence we are called into, together.

Lord have mercy on us….  AMEN!

 

 

(1)  Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (p. 409). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

I Am the Lord Your God!

Cross & Clouds

Cross & Clouds (Photo credit: John H Wright Photo)

I Am The Lord Your God!
Lev. 18:-1-5, 19:9-18

 

†  In Jesus Name

May you always thank the Father, as filled with His joy, your find yourselves filled with all His glorious power, and having all the endurance and patience you need in your lives today!

It’s Not as Heavy A Burden as we Think!

At first glance, the Old Testament reading reminds me of my trainer at the gym.  Every time I think I am working with the right amount of weight, he’ll walk over and add 10 or 20 pounds, and I will have to really push myself to get another set completed.  Even as I dislike it when he adds the 10 pounds, the reason I have a trainer is to make sure I get the most out of my working out – so that I become healthier and stronger.

Often, our first reaction to lists of commandments like this is similar to a work out – we know we are going to struggle, we know we are going to be pushed past what we think our breaking point is.  We get anxious knowing we are going to be faced with failure, like when I try to bench press 60 pounds, we just give up.  The same thing here – how many commandments can we focus on at once, how will we grow spiritually and fulfill each of them?

It is easy to look at what God expects out of us, and look at the burden and wonder how Jesus expects us to be as perfect as He is.

What we are going to look at this morning, in both church and Bible study is this idea that the burden is too big, that it is too heavy, that we cannot live as God calls us to live.  The illusion we are only sinners, those who fail God.  Really, the burden is not too much and we can be described as Paul describes the church in Colossae.

…The way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and your lives will produce every kind of good fruit. (Colossians 1:11b)

So let’s look at this list of commands, and consider whether it is a burden to obey these commandments….and walk in this life.

A Challenging List!

           

God makes it clear that His standard goes beyond that of the world.  It’s not just their behaviors we aren’t to follow, the very laws they established were not reflective of God’s standard.  Sounds familiar, yes?

 

What is legal in the law of the Egyptians and Canaanites and for us according to the Supreme Court isn’t beneficial or proper for us, according to God.  We can’t say to God, we didn’t hear your laws, or we chose to do what is appropriate here.  His desire for us is to for life to be lived to its fullest, not just to make do.  We are called to live life in a way that Jesus did, valuing what He did, serving those He would serve, sacrificing things we want, and knowing that what He has in store for us is so much more fulfilling!

Look at the “commands”, look at the way God commissions us to live.

God’s law is all about caring for our neighbors, nor matter their race, their religion, their role in society, whether they are in LA or the OC or Cambodia.  That is the bottom line at every one of these commandments.

It starts with the “law” of leaving part of what is ours provide for others. God asks us to give part of what is ours by right, to help those who have nothing, the poor and the stranger – or in other translations, the alien – literally those “not of our people” or “the one who doesn’t belong”.  We are to care for them, to help provide for them – whether the government is involved… or not.

The list moves on to not cheating others, not deceiving, slandering, or exploiting them.  Luther would add that this obligates us to care for them, and their property.  Remember, sin is disobedience! It is walking away from God’s plan in our thoughts, words, or deed – and that includes what we fail to think, fail to say, and fail to do.  Again – God’s desire isn’t just about not harming them, but caring about them, even as God cares for us.  God’s love in action, through us.

We see this as well in not mocking or cursing the deaf, or tripping up the blind – whether they are deaf and blind physically – or spiritually. Our actions should be that which help – and comfort and guide those, not give them reason to hate us.

Caring for them goes to the extent of our not allowing resentment to build in our hearts!  If we do, how can we love each other, or prove that love in the way we care for each other?  We are called to carefully reprove those who sin, in such a way that reconciliation can occur.  It should go without saying, but sin isn’t any more individual than grace and faith are – and it is a sign of our love for our neighbor that we would carefully try to deliver them from their sin – even as Christ has done for us….

This is the way of life God that has commissioned, this is the way of life that He desires us to live and treasure. It is easily summed up as the young man and Jesus talked about… loving your neighbor as yourself… and Jesus will remind the young teacher – that our neighbor is simply the one in need…

What we’ve got to remember He’s Yhwh   
That is what God has commissioned our lives to be – lives invested in each other, and in those who are broken in this world, that our love for them would bring healing and hope – even as we are found in Christ – and are finding healing there for our sin-caused wounds.

Which would be a struggle, an incredible burden except for one thing.  The nature and character of God.   You see, He will not give us a burden we can’t carry, In the midst of this passage, we are reminded constantly of who He is, for that very purpose!

I chose the NJB translation for that reason this morning for our reading.  I’ve mentioned it before – when the Bible spells our LORD in all capitals – it is not the word for Lord or Master or King in scripture.  In fact, it’s somewhat the opposite – it’s God’s personal name… Yahweh/Jehovah.  Translated it is “I AM” and it reminds us of God’s power but even more, His presence in our lives.  For He “is” and that means He is here.. with us.

Knowing that is the key to understanding all of the passages of scripture where God lays out how our lives are to be lived.  Nine times in this passage, God reminds us of Who He is, not with titles that we see in Scripture – like, “God of heaven’s armies” or God on High, but rather His name.  Reminding us of what He desires most – for us to so trust in Him that we call on His name – that we realize that He is our God! He is with us.

This is what the cross is all about!  It isn’t just about forgiving our sins, though indeed that is where they were paid for.  It’s about getting rid of the things that stand in the way of our calling on His name,  Jesus living the way He did, being crucified and raised from the dead – it’s all about His restoring us to the Father, sharing with us their glory, as their love envelopes all of us.

Which is why this way God commissions us to live is not about rules and obligations, as much as it is the natural outcome of our relationship with Him.  This relationship, as we walk with Him, as we realize He is our God, results in a change in us, as we begin to love as He does. Our priorities change, not by our strength or character, but by living in His presence and knowing His mercy.

That is why I said this list is not a burden, The more we dwell in Him, the more we are conscious of the fact that He is Yhwh, the more we are sure that He is here, the more we find ourselves changed – the more we find out that we begin to live in this way.

For we find, in His presence, we dwell in His peace…a peace beyond all comprehension, for He guards as a great treasure, our hearts and minds.

AMEN!

Keeping God’s Commandments… a deeper look..

“All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me, therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, and teach them to keep all I have commanded you, and lo I will be with you always, to the end of the age.!

It’s an incredible passage, one Christians and pastors – especially those who are focused on the mission of the church know well, at least we think we do.

Some focus on the going..

Some focus on the making of disciples…

Some focus on what it means to baptize,

Some focus on what they think teaching them to “keep” all that have I commanded you”

Some rightly focus on the incarnational presence of God – with us  – for there is no way we could live our lives in Christ without knowing we do that which we do…

Been there, done that, have the t-shirts, the bible studes, the sermons i have written on all five of those great things….heck – talked people into going places and doing things – and those who did the right thing… may have done it for the wrong reason….

In the last few years – I’ve spent some time thinking and dwelling on this idea of Keeping and what is that which is “commanded” .  Obviously this is a major part of our responsibility of the church – the vocation of all of us.  So it bears a look into it.

First let’s deal with “keep”, which is sometimes erroneously translated “obey”.  It is far more than simply obedience.  And understanding the difference between keep and obey is critical.  Keep in English is from the old English term for that place where you put that which you treasure, the castel keep was where the kings heirs, his wife, and the treasure – his and that of the people – when they are under attack, with they are oppressed.   So to it is in Greek – it comes from the word for guard, to protect – to keep safe because it is a treasure.  You can obey someone – without treasuring them…

That is far greater than the simple idea of blindly or knowledgeably obeying that which we are directed to do.  We have something which is a treasure – it is more incredible than anything else we have!  This which we teach to those who walk with Christ and those we are instrumental in bringing to walk with Christ  – is something they are to treasure, something that will mean more to them than anything else that they have – could ever have.

So what is the treasure?  What is it we ar to guard, to hold onto, to KEEP?

Our translations call it what Christ has commanded.

I have always thought it referred to the Ten Commandments, or the entire list of do’s and don’t in scripture.  It’s more – to grasp that – we have to look at what did God “command”

Look to Creation…

He spoke the word, and there came into existence..

Look to our Re-creation…

The centurion’s cry, “only say the word and my servant shall be healed..

the demoniacs were dismissed by the command of the Lord…
We were declared righteous and holy… by the command of the Lord…

Our being called – our being cleansed and brought back to God, as St Paul says – “we are His worksmanship, created  in Christ Jesus for good works”  He commissioned us, He has commanded that we are cleansed and given life…. life  with Him.  Think of Ezekiel’s valley of dry bones… and the Son of man commanding the bones to join and become enfleshed, to stand – and the command given to the Spirit to breathe life into those bones….

Yeah – that’s the treasure that Christ has commanded.. the Creation and Re-creation – of our lives with God.

That’s our treasure… that is what, as we make disciples, as we baptize them…. that is what we teach them to treasure, to keep, to guard….

AMEN!

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