Here I Am

from Unsplash
from Unsplash

Isaiah 6:1-8
Psalm 29
Romans 8:12-17
John 3:1-17

 

Jerome wrote about 410 AD: We have talked about standing; we have talked about walking; let us talk about sitting. Whenever God is represented as seated, the portrayal takes one of two forms: either he appears as the ruler or as the judge. If he is like a king, one sees him as Isaiah does: “I saw the Lord seated on a high and lofty throne.” There he is presented as the sovereign king.

Isaiah was given a gift that only a dozen or so have received, he ‘saw’ God. God has already told us that no human can see God and live, so we must take this to mean he saw the presence, the outer manifestation of God; or as Isaiah put it: his train filled the sanctuaryNJB

Even so, Isaiah was aware of his filth. He cried out:

“Doom! It’s Doomsday!
I’m as good as dead!
Every word I’ve ever spoken is tainted—
blasphemous even!
And the people I live with talk the same way,
using words that corrupt and desecrate.
And here I’ve looked God in the face!
The King! God-of-the-Angel-Armies!”
 MSG

Isaiah did what we all must do, he recognized his sin and his unworthiness to be in the presence of God. With that admission, he was made clean with the fire of the Altar of the Heavenly Temple. That is, he was made clean by the sacrifice of the Messiah, the Son of God.

Isaiah at once took up the struggle that God had not yet laid before him. Isaiah said, Send me, before God told him were to go and what to say.

Are you ready to be sent? God has a job waiting for every person on earth. We need only say yes.

 

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

 

Pentecost

Haiti, 2013
Haiti, 2013

Ezekiel 37:1-14
Psalm 104: 25-35,37
Romans 8:22-27
John 15:26-27; 16:4b-15

 

Seven weeks ago, we celebrated Easter, the day of Christ’s defeating death. This Sunday, we celebrate the day the Holy Spirit filled his Followers with the power of God. Both of these days are important Jewish feast days. More to the point, they are powerfully important to the followers of Jesus. Jesus, who arrived in Jerusalem on the day the Passover lambs were to be inspected by the priests. Jesus, who was sacrificed with the Passover lambs. Jesus, who came out of the grave on the day of the First Fruits (the barley harvest). Jesus, who sent the Holy Spirit to his disciples on the day of the First Fruits (the wheat harvest), known as Shavuot, fifty days after Passover.

You will see that each of today’s readings describes the Holy Spirit. Ezekiel and the famous dry bones is much more than reassembling body parts. It reminds us of Genesis 2:7 when God fashioned Man from the earth. Then he breathed into his nostrils a breath of life, and thus man became a living beingNJB

There are three different levels of this breath of life. The lowest level is that of plants and animals from bacteria to elephants. We humans have known all of the building blocks of both for nearly a century, but we do not know how to turn those blocks into living creatures. God assembles them and gives them the spark of life.

According to Genesis, God went a step farther with Man by breathing His own Breath into us. We received more than the spark, we also received the essence of God. That is what sets us apart from plants and animals, our oneness with God. We are made in His image.

The third level is seen throughout the Old Testament as well as at Pentecost. The Spirit of God comes to a person with inspiration and power. That is what Paul was writing about when he described our gifts. Each of us is inspired in different ways and given power equal to the task set before us.

Most of us never hear the rushing wind or see the tongues of the Spirit dancing above our heads, nor do we need to. If a task is in front of me and I believe it is something God wants done, I should do it whether I want to or not. God did not ask his Son if he wanted to be tortured to death, or if He did ask, Jesus said yes. Even on the night of his arrest, Jesus was asking for help to go through with the ugly business. How can I do less?

 

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

 

In Them I Am Glorified

Photo from Unsplash
Photo from Unsplash

 

Acts 1:15-17, 21-26
Psalm 1
1 John 5:9-13
John 17:6-19

 

The one hundred fifty Psalms are arranged in an order that has reason and meaning. Psalm one is the introduction to all the others, as Basil the Great wrote around 360 AD:

Like the foundation in a house, the keel in a ship and the heart in a body, so is Psalm 1 a brief introduction to the whole structure of the Psalms. For when David intended to propose in the course of his speech to the combatants of true religion many painful tasks involving unmeasured sweats and toils, he showed first the happy end, that in the hope of the blessings reserved for us we might endure without grief the sufferings of this life.

John echoes David in the last verse of his letter in today’s reading: I have written all this to you so that you who believe in the name of the Son of God may be sure that you have eternal lifeNJB

The prayer of Jesus as recorded by John in his Gospel is a powerful description of how it all works, how God brought all the pieces together into one great victory over sin. Jesus in faith chose the Twelve to carry on his work. When one faltered, he was replaced. That has become the pattern of the Church. By taking up the work of the first saints, we too can become saints. We too can look forward to the glory Jesus described in John 17:5, just before our reading today: Now, Father, honour me in your own presence with the glory that I knew with you before the world was madePhillips

Jesus was sent into the world and we are sent into the world. Before the glory, there is the fight. The military gives out medals for bravery to those who were in the fight. We modern Christians in the US have become used to the comforts of pew sitting. We seek pleasant music and preaching to lifts us without the inconvenience of having to help the poor, the disabled, the sick, the dying, the helpless, the homeless, the unpleasant ones.

Look back at chapter 16 of John, verse 2: the time will come when anyone who kills you will think he is serving God! CJB Jesus made it abundantly clear that killing is never the answer, but sadly, Christians are killed by other Christians every day, quite apart from the brutality of ISIS. Being a follower of the Son of God is not easy. If you want easy, you joined the wrong club.

 

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

 

Not With Water Only

Agnus Day appears with the permission of www.agnusday.org
Agnus Day appears with the permission of www.agnusday.org

 

Acts 10:44-48
Psalm 98
1 John 5:1-6
John 15:9-17

 

At the end of Acts 9, Peter entered the room of a dead woman and said, “Tabitha, stand up.” NJB He was among believers, so did not need to use the in the name of Jesus, phrase. The power of God brought many in Jaffa to believe.

But Peter ended up staying in the home of a tanner. Within the social hierarchy of Israel, none were lower than tanners. They handled the hides of dead animals. Even if the animal had been a sheep sacrificed at Passover, it was dead and the tanner worked with it; he was as unclean as a person can ever be. We are not told why Peter ended up there, but it fits with the story of chapter 10.

A God-fearing Roman Centurion named Cornelius was instructed by God through an angel to invite Peter for a visit. He sent three men to find him, having been told he was in Jaffa. As they traveled, Peter entered into prayer with God but fell asleep. He still had that problem.

God visited Peter in a dream by showing him all kinds of animals, including snakes and pigs. God told Peter to eat of all of them. Peter said he could not and God repeated the image two more times before Peter awoke and realized the meaning of the dream.

Then God instructed Peter to go to the door and go with the men who were asking for him. At the home of Cornelius, Peter shared the Gospel.

Now for the important point: Cornelius and his whole Gentile household were filled with the Holy Spirit. The Messianic Jews who were there, many having traveled with Peter, were amazed that the Holy Spirit of the Most High God would fall on Gentiles.

It should not have been a surprise. The Old Testament is filled with the idea that God loves everyone and expects to save everyone. As David put it:

Sing Yahweh a new song

            For he has performed marvels,

His own right hand, his holy arm,

            Gives him the power to saveNJB

 

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence