That There Might be Equality

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2 Samuel 1:1, 17-27

Psalm 130

2 Corinthians 8:7-15

Mark 5:21-43

 

Paul encourages the church at Corinth to give to the needy out of their wealth. In verse 15 he cites the Exodus experience of the manna. It could only be gathered once a day and no matter how much was picked up, or how little, everyone had just the right amount for the day. In like manor, Paul encouraged giving in such a way that there would be equality among the people.

David gives us a different sense of equality. After defeating Goliath (a clear picture of God making a child equal to a giant warrior) David went to live with King Saul. When Saul began to fear David and want him dead, David ran, but never turned against God’s anointed king. David did not consider himself superior to Saul, even though he knew God had chosen him to replace increasingly erratic king.

When David received word of the death of the king, he did not gloat, but rather mourned the loss of God’s chosen one. David would not presume to be king until he was properly anointed by God, unlike his own son Adonijah who announced himself as king before David had even died. While David’s name is not attached to Psalm 130, he no doubt agreed with, My soul waits for the LordNIV

In Mark, we find Jesus involved in two healing events which at first seem unrelated. However, both deal with the same problem of separation, or non-equality. Jairus asked Jesus to lay hands on his daughter who was ill and the woman touched Jesus while she was bleeding. Both times Jesus was defiled and required a week of purification ritual. Touching a healthy woman would have been less serious.

As we know, Jesus ignored such separations. He regularly touched the untouchable, even as he claimed he was not changing the Law. When took the hand of the girl who had died and told her to stand up, he was providing a resurrection preview, but he was also instructing all of us that we should not fear another human for any reason.

Who do we fear today? One way to know who we fear is to note the words we use to identify them. Any derogatory word is a bad sign for us.

Being a slave of Jesus the Messiah does not give me any special status in the world. It certainly does not give me license to hate, hurt, or humiliate anyone. It does give me the authority to help, encourage, support, and generally treat everyone I meet the way I want to be treated.

 

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

 

Where Were You When I Laid the Earth’s Foundation?

3

 

Job 38:1-11

Psalm 107:1-3, 23-32

2 Corinthians 6:1-13

Mark 4:35-41

 

In the land of Uz there lived a man whose name was Job. This man was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evilNIV So begins the long torturous story of Job. It is packed with many lessons for us, including the overriding message that God is God and we are not.

Job struggled in his suffering and cried out to God, but he never turned away from God. Job knew the answer to God’s question, Is it your wisdom that sets the hawk soaringCJB No. God alone controls the universe, He alone set it in motion. We can study the stars and we can learn the components, but we cannot make a star. We can begin with two wolves and in a thousand years end up with a tea-cup poodle or a St. Bernard, but we cannot create life, or even make a wolf anything but a dog.

In the reading today, Jesus shows us two things. First, Jesus is God for only God can calm a storm. Second, we need him to calm our own storms.

Most of us do not face the hardships of Job or of Paul, but we each have our own storms. Each storm comes and goes, but while we are in the storm it can be hard to remember that it will end. We must always remember the question Jesus asked of the disciples, Why are you so frightened? What has happened to your faith? Phillips

 

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

 

A Noble Cedar

lebanon-cedar

 

Ezekiel 17:22-24

Psalm 92:1-4, 11-14

2 Corinthians 5:6-10, (11-13), 14-17

Mark 4:26-34

 

Vacation Bible School is in session in June for many churches. One of many lessons given to children is the power of the mustard seed; of having faith in Jesus that can grow into a mighty tree. It is a good and proper message.

But there is more to it. Ezekiel gives us the depth we need to understand the fullness of the mustard seed.

Adonai Elohim says, ‘From the top of this tall cedar, from its highest branch, I will take a shoot and plant it myself on a high and prominent mountainCJB FIRST: God will do the heavy lifting. We Americans have read too many “pull myself up by my bootstraps” stories. We believe God chose us to be bigger, smarter, stronger and richer than others. We believe “winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.”

Why should God pluck that one small sprig from the top of the tree when an American could just as easily climb the tree and get it for Him?

The tree God is growing has no room for gung-ho American can-do attitude. It is the tree of mercy for those who will give up all that attitude; for those who cannot do it themselves; for those who are lost and hopeless.

I will plant it on the highest mountain in Isra’el, where it will put out branches, bear fruit, and become a noble cedarCJB It is the tree of Israel, the tree we have been invited to join, to be grafted onto and into. God alone does the grafting. There is nothing I can do to earn it. I am a walking worthless lump of dirt. But….

Under it will live all kinds of birds; winged creatures of every description will live there in the shadow of its branchesCJB For reasons we will probably never understand, God wants us, even as we disappoint Him. All he asks in exchange is to accept His Gift, His Mercy upon us.

Good news for the gung-ho, once we are grafted to the tree, God’s tree, we will want to do those things God asked us to do. We will smile for those who are sad, visit those who are lonely, touch the untouchable, seek those who are lost, feed the hungry, care for the wounded, shelter the homeless. We will not be able to help ourselves, we will follow Jesus wherever he goes.

Then all the trees of the field will know that I, Adonai, bring down the tall tree and raise up the low tree, wither the green tree and make the withered tree bear fruit. I, Adonai, have spoken; and I will do itCJB Jesus put it bluntly in Mark 9:34-35: They were silent, for on the way they had been arguing about who should be the greatest. Jesus sat down and called the twelve, and said to them, “If any man wants to be first, he must be last and servant of all.” Phillips To be a branch on the tree, I must give up my plush American life and become a slave to all.

 

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

 

To Be Weak

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from unsplash

Genesis 3:8-15

Psalm 130

2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1

Mark 3:20-35

 

We humans pride ourselves on being unique and the first two chapters of Genesis seem to support our claim. Oddly, chapter 3 does as well, but in the negative. We did not invent sin, but we quickly accepted sin as a way of life, taking creation with us. According to Genesis, only humans sinned.

We found ourselves, in the words of Adam, naked and afraid and much like the TV show using that name, we had to figure out how to survive in a world gone mad. Instead of having lions as friends, we had to hide from them.

Our uniqueness cannot be measured physically. I was told in school that the opposable thumb was one of the main things that separated us from animals; yet we had a cat some years ago who regularly picked up food between her thumb and first finger and put in in her mouth. We never could get her to use a fork.

We are strangely close to animals and plants in our DNA: chimps 90%, mice 88%, chickens 65%, grapes 24%, and yeast 18%. That ten percent difference is significant, of course, but it only makes our bodies different, not us.

Genesis 2:7 explains what actually separates us from other physical organisms. Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. NIV That is why we are alone in all of creation, we contain the breath of God.

The bodies that house the real us are made of the same building blocks as grapes, fish and mice, but we alone are like God. He gave us His Spirit with that breath. We abused that particular spirit and turned away from God. Everything since chapter 3 of Genesis is about our finding our way home.

To be a true follower of Jesus is to be naked and unafraid. Paul in his letter emphasizes the importance of finding strength in weakness. Later in his letter (12:10) we read Paul’s words: That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. NIV It is impossible to muscle our way into Heaven.

 

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence