God’s Law—Human Tradition

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Song of Songs (Song of Solomon) 2:8-13

Psalm 45:1-2, 7-10

James 1:17-27

Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23

 

Cyril of Alexandria about 430 AD gave us an excellent image of this passage from the Song. Some things imply that the bridegroom is already present, whereas other things suggest that the bridegroom is being sought by the bride. For we too investigate some problems for which we do not know the solution and some problems, when the bridegroom and Word enlightens our hearts, which we find already solved. Then, in other matters, we doubt again and it is revealed to us anew. This will happen often until we possess the bridegroom fully, when he not only comes but also remains within us. ACCS

The Word of God, the Son of God, the Love of God comes to us as a lover to his intended. The Song, all eight chapters, expresses Agape. But the poetic images do make many of us uncomfortable, so the Song is seldom quoted or preached.

The poetry of Solomon seems to be in contrast to the words of Jesus in Mark but look again. You are so busy holding on to the traditions of men that you let go the commandment of God! Phillips He is saying, “You are missing the point!” Washing your hands before you eat is a good thing, but remaining loyal to God’s Word of Justice is more important.

Let us look at a more concrete example. There are about eleven million illegal immigrants living and working in the US, down from a high five years ago of twelve million. They come from every country in the world with the majority from Mexico, Central and South America. What would Jesus do?

It is a complex issue that I will not try to solve here, but if Jesus were to write a new immigration law, I believe he would reject all attempts to impose our human biases and hatreds. We no longer enforce the Chinese Exclusion Act and we have released the American-born citizens of Japanese descent from our concentration camps, but we still try to slow the immigration of certain peoples while allowing free access of others we perceive as “like us”.

It is these feelings, these frustrations, these antagonisms bubbling within us that we can control only with God’s Love. If I lose my job to a Mexican, legal immigrant or not, it is too easy to blame the entire class of Mexicans in American for that loss. In fact, it is always easier to blame others for our problems no matter who is really at fault.

Post this at all the intersections, dear friends: Lead with your ears, follow up with your tongue, and let anger straggle along in the rear. God’s righteousness doesn’t grow from human angerMSG

 

Be righteous and do good.

 

 

The Full Armor of God

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1 Kings 8:1-43

Psalm 84

Ephesians 6:10-20

John 6:56-69

 

After David conquered the city of Jebus and renamed it Jerusalem (Yerushalayim), he led the parade of worshipers up the hill as the Tabernacle was carried to its new home. When the Temple was completed, David’s son Solomon led the parade across the new City of David as the Ark of the Covenant and other items were carried from the Tabernacle to the Temple.

A number of Psalms were written for the two events, but Psalm 84 carries the central message of today’s lesson; whether we know it or not, we all long to be in the presence of God. I looked at many translations of the opening of the Psalm and chose this paraphrase to share:

What a beautiful home, God-of-the-Angel-Armies!
I’ve always longed to live in a place like this,
Always dreamed of a room in your house,
where I could sing for joy to God-alive! MSG

When Paul wrote to his friends at the church in Ephesus, he encouraged them to, Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. NLV

What is the full armor? We are quick to think of powerful warriors, but Paul lists the armor: Truth, Righteousness, Peace, Faith, Salvation, and the Holy Spirit.

When we look at the words of Jesus it is clear that the armor listed by Paul is the same thing that Jesus meant with: Unless you do eat the body of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you are not really living at all. The man who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life and I will raise him up when the last day comes. Phillips

We must take Jesus into ourselves so completely that Jesus can work through us to defeat the powers of evil. We all live in a world of spiritual warfare. We are all in a battle we cannot win. We are like the Texans at the Alamo, Custer at the Little Big Horn, or the Jewish rebels at Masada. We cannot win.

But Jesus changes that battle. I cannot win, but Jesus can.

 

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

 

The Mystery of the Bread

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

 

 

1 Kings 2:10-12; 3:3-14

Psalm 111

Ephesians 5:15-20

John 6:51-58

 

The words of Jesus in this reading have become a divider of Christians, something opposite of Jesus’ intention. Jesus said to them, “Unless you do eat the body of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you are not really living at allPhillips He is describing cannibalism, something abhorrent to nearly all peoples of the world. For Jews, eating blood from animals was forbidden; that is why the animals had to be killed by slitting their throats to let the heart pump out the blood first. And in Deuteronomy 28 eating human flesh clearly results in complete loss of one’s humanity. These words caused many of his disciples to desert him.

So what did Jesus mean? This is another paradox like the lion and the lamb (and Jesus is both). Jesus made a bold statement, and a long one, about the Bread of Life. It runs from verse 25 to 71 of chapter 6. More than that, it must be understood in terms of the feeding of the 5,000.

Perhaps the earliest commentary on this text is from Ignatius who was born about the time of Jesus’ death and resurrection and as the Bishop of Antioch probably knew several of the first Apostles. Come together in common one and all without exception in charity, in one faith and in one Jesus Christ…and break one bread, which is the medicine of immortality and the antidote against death, enabling us to live forever in Jesus Christ.

Nearly a century later, Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons, wrote that we must become accustomed to eat and drink the Word of God. Most Protestants take this sense when reading Jesus’ words.

Look back at John 6:26-29. Jesus told the people, You’ve come looking for me not because you saw God in my actions but because I fed youMSG Here I think is an essential point, Jesus says that it is all about God, not the bread. If I eat the Word of God but never take the bread and wine of the Eucharist, I have done well. As Paul put it, Live life, then, with a due sense of responsibility, not as men who do not know the meaning and purpose of life but as those who doPhillips

Eat the Word and drink the wine of the Christ-like life.

 

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

 

Out of the Depths

from Unsplash
from Unsplash

2 Samuel 18:5-9, 15, 31-33

Psalm 130

Ephesians 4:25-5:2

John 6:35, 41-51

 

The story of King David and his son Absalom is filled with the separation of rebellion. David, as the stand-in for the Messiah, seeks the return of his relationship with his beautiful son. Absalom seeks his own way; aims to be master of his own fate. While the story is filled with details, the key is that David pursued the safe return of his son.

We are all guilty rebels; we want to follow God, but do it our way. The whole concept of becoming a slave to become a child of God is a hard road. We are rugged individualists; we solve our own problems and reach for the stars through difficulties.

Jesus says, “Stop grumbling among yourselves.” NIV It is not that difficult, do what God says to do. As Paul put it: no more lies; don’t use your anger as fuel for revenge; get an honest job so that you can help others who can’t work; watch the way you talk; forgive one another. MSG

God is busy encouraging every one of us to return to Him. He does not want us to suffer the death of Absalom. Instead of sending an army to hunt us down, God has sent his son to show us the proper way to live and to prepare the way for our return to God, the Father of us all. God will weep for everyone who refuses to be reunited with Him. His tears will exceed those of David.

 

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence